Otis Day & the BusBoys

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Otis Day & the BusBoys

Posted on: May 7th, 2014 by tommyj

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Otis Day and the BusBoys

The BusBoys and Otis Day put on a combined concert representing two iconic musical groups from two iconic films: “48 Hrs” and “Animal House.” Here is a look at both prongs of this evening of music…


Otis Day is actually an actor by the name DeWayne Jessie. But DeWayne was overrun by Otis once that wild scene in “National Lampoon’s Animal House” was a “wrap” 36 years ago. Once Otis Day and the Knights started singing “Shout!,” and once a frat boy yelled out, “Otis. My man!”—a shout out that met with Otis’ incredulous stare and silence—a larger than life character was born. And, almost unbelievably, he lives on today.

Here’s a few observations we gathered from DeWayne Jessie in a phone conversation we held last week.

Otis still lives…

Jessie: It’s crazy—some of the ones who come to our show are crazy—and I’ve enjoyed them a lot. Basically nothing has changed. We’re still spinning. I don’t have any idea how many times people have said, “Otis, my man!” But if I had a penny for all the times they did, I would be a multi-billionaire.

Producers have kicked around a sequel, and I’ve thought about it, but I always think, ‘why mess with gold. Leave it alone’. We’ve talked about another film, “Otis Day: Band on the Run“, which could still happen if we get financing.

Otis in the 2000s…

Jessie: He’s very now—but he’s also aware of ‘then’—and he incorporates all of that in the show. People get a taste of Otis with a new twist. It doesn’t take away from what it is. Otis tried rapping, but he couldn’t get it together. He sounded ridiculous. We got through that and now try to stick with the tried and true. We pick out songs that go with the whole “Animal House” thing—and keep it fresh by taking old songs and putting a little twist on them.

Do you ever wear a toga?

Jessie: I never wear togas—Performing in something like that… there are so many things that could go wrong.

Strange things because of Otis

Jessie: I think the strangest thing is the opportunities that would never have come about—like going into people’s homes without being arrested.

I played one big mansion for Halloween and they had it all decorated like a funeral parlor. People thought I was dressed in costume. They didn’t know I was the real deal. They figured it out after I did the show.

John Belushi…

Jessie: He was a hard worker. He was very professional. He wasn’t like they described in “Wired.” He was doing “Saturday Night Live” and “Animal House” at the same time. He’d do three days with “SNL” and three days with us.

Did he ever give you any advice?

Jessie: We didn’t have philosophical discussions. We just drank and had fun.

DeWayne Jessie…

Jessie: As DeWayne Jessie I recently got to be a serial killer on three or four episodes of a TV series. I’d love to do another film. I won an Image Award and I love acting. It brings something else to the table—something deep inside.

I’m considered a triple threat—a singer, an actor and an entertainer. This makes more sense for an older entertainer. I think I’ve paid my dues and think I need some change back.

I’m basically a homebody. I like to eat and cook and interact with my family. I also like to paint and draw.  I kick back until it’s time to act the fool on stage…but then living in Las Vegas, it’s like a playground. I can pick and choose what I want to do.

I’d love to do another film and be nominated for something. I don’t know if that will ever happen. Half the people I knew in Hollywood are dead.

The show with the BusBoys..

Jessie: I’ve known Brian O’Neal for an insurmountable number of years and we’ve done several shows together. Sometimes it’s me, him and Ray Parker, Jr. It’s not like a continuous thing, but we spot check each other every once in a while.

In the show, we perform together, separately and then perform back together at the end. Brian O’Neal is insane and I’m insane, so you get double insanity and a pleasurable show.


The BusBoys were making a name for themselves in the L.A. scene, playing places like the Whisky A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip, when they were tapped by the producers of the as yet unfinished film, “48 Hrs” to play a song in the movie.  That one tune became most of the music for the film after the BusBoys wowed everyone on the set, including the budding young actor in one of the lead roles, Eddie Murphy.

Brian O’Neal, the founder of the group, set about writing music for the film, which included a song “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Well, the movie was a hit, the song was a hit, and Eddie Murphy’s career took off. And he took the BusBoys along with him on his famous “Delirious Tour“.

Ironically (and mysteriously), both the hit song and soundtrack from the film were never recorded at the time. It took years before the BusBoys set down a recorded version of “The Boys Are Back In Town.”

O’Neal and his BusBoys continued to provide music for more films, like the Grammy-nominated song “Cleanin’ Up The Town” from “Ghostbusters.” Their most recent single, “City’s On Fire” is from the upcoming documentary “Freeway City,” which tells the story of the City of Gardena where O’Neal and many of the original members of The BusBoys grew up.

Here is some feedback we got from Brian O’Neal in a phone interview we conducted last week…

The live show…

O’Neal: I’m looking forward to getting to Laughlin and rocking the house. I don’t know how we’ll be received, but we’re coming to do some exciting stuff. It will be cool working in one spot for four days. It will be exciting that first night, kind of like that first date. Then after Saturday it will be like, hold on to your seats now. If people liked us on Thursday, come back Sunday and get some more music. We’ll get a chance to switch songs in and out. It’s good stuff, on-fire, honest performing.

Eddie Murphy…

O’Neal: I almost think that because of his success in movies and comedy it obstructed his genius. We’re in the third generation of guys who were influenced by his work without knowing it. Very few people know that he discovered and nurtured Chris Rock.

He was part funny man and part Elvis in his commanding stage presence. He was aggressive, a say-anything type of guy when it was not in vogue to do so.

BusBoys’ in “48 Hrs”…

O’Neal: I remember that first day was a hot summer day. We were supposed to work the day, but they came over to us and told us to shut down. I thought, “it’s after lunch, you still have to pay me for the day.” You never know with movies. Later, we were at the bar and I sat with Joel Silver and Walter Hill, and they say to me, “We didn’t know what we were getting into.” I thought, “you still gotta pay me for the day.”  They said, “We had no idea how good you guys were and the kind of performance you were going to give us.”  So he bought me a drink and said “Let me rethink this.” What was to have been a day shoot turned into a whole week.

“The Boys Are Back In Town”…

O’Neal: It was not a plan to become a career song in any way, shape or fashion. It’s just the way things happened. It was an end-of-the-night song to fulfill the studio’s requirement to have us come up with four songs. The guys are all tired and wanting to go home and I told them I wanted to do a little song—a shuffle with a gospel intro that I play on the piano. They were like, “We want to go home…What’s this opus called?” We’d just come off the road, so I said it’s called “The…boys…are….back…in…town.” It ended up as quite a special track. It just goes to show, you never know. You do your best work all the time and keep getting to the plate.

One of the really curious parts about the song is we did “48 Hrs.”, and the “Delirious Tour” and “Saturday Night Live,” all the while our manager was trying to get the record label to release it. The label couldn’t see the relevance of the film, of us and how that would all work. The BusBoys’ most famous single that wasn’t released. It’s weird. It was no distinction we were trying for.

Where they fit….

O’Neal: Radio was, and always will be, segmented and The BusBoys really don’t fit or fall into any category as a whole.  We never have. We’re a unique, American, rock and roll and soul band with social commentary songs, and party songs, and songs about new shoes. It’s sort of like Chuck Berry and meet The Beatles.

It’s cool to be unique because no one sounds like you. But it is more challenging because we don’t fit into marketing plans very easily.

We grew up with two things we wanted to be—very original and having something to say. As far as I’m concerned, there are two kinds of music—the good stuff and everything else.

Real vs Memorex….

O’Neal: I prefer to hear people who play instruments and sing songs. I know there are people who are really good at manipulating computers, and that’s fine. I just don’t want to see that. It’s not my taste. I’d rather go downstairs and practice my piano and guitar. That’s what I’m built from, that’s the Picasso in me.

I appreciate two things—family life and my music. It’s all about what you can put into it and what you get back out. The rest is just clatter or trappings….

New projects…

O’Neal: I’m a producer in a film called “Freeway City“. It’s a documentary about the City of Gardena, where I went to high school and where several members of the original band came from. We’re also doing “BusBoys TV“. It’s live performances in the studio where we have guys like Ray Parker, Slash and bunches of other people come and sit and play for 30-minute sessions.

Working with Otis Day…

O’Neal: I love Otis. He’s such a sincere individual. He was a really brilliant actor and did great work before and after his adopted “Otis Day” character. He can make the smallest of things big—he just throws electricity into it. I’m always pleased when we get to get out there and do something together.


Riverside Resort, Don’s Celebrity Theatre

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