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Unusual landmarks

Life-size statues of Jake and Elwood Blues, the characters portrayed by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s and in the movie “Blues Brothers,” stand as landmarks Sunday, March 3, 2019, outside the Two Rivers Inn East at 1009 12th Ave. SE. A second set of statues are in front of the other Two Rivers in Jamestown. Tom LaVenture / The Sun

If it's not all that clear why statues of a famous singing duo have adorned two Jamestown motels for the past nine years — the owner says that is partly intentional.

There are actually three sets of the statues, with two here in Jamestown and the other at another hotel in Florida, said J.R. Lang, owner of both the Two Rivers Inn East and Two Rivers Inn West motels. Lang spoke during a phone interview Thursday from his part-year residence in Arizona.

"They are meant to be an eye-catcher so that people remember the hotel," Lang said. "When people who have been in town before call about rooms they say, 'Oh ya, the place with the statues in front."

Jake stands at about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, while Elwood is around 6 feet, 4 inches tall. They are hard to miss and people ask why they are there, and will smile and talk about the movie or take photos with them, he said.

"They remember the hotel because of that," he said. "It's also creates a landmark that helps when giving directions."

The statues are of Jake and Elwood Blues, the characters portrayed by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s. The two performed as the Blues Brothers first for the live comedy show with Belushi as lead singer and Aykroyd on harmonica and backup vocals.

The act grew popular and the two performed at concert venues and released an album within a year. The Blue Brothers movie directed by John Landis came out in 1980 as one of a string of films Akroyd and Belushi co-wrote and acted in just a few short years before Belushi's untimely death from drugs in 1982.

In the Blues Brothers film, Jake and Ellwood must reform their band and perform a show in time to pay the overdue property taxes for the Catholic orphanage where the two were raised in Chicago. The film was famous for its collection of live songs from legendary singers such as Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and John Lee Hooker, as well as car chases, clashes with neo-Nazis and a two-song all-night set at Bob's Country Bunker.

Lang said he isn't sure where the Blues Brothers statues were manufactured, but he learned that a set was for sale at a warehouse arts store in South Carolina. He never went to the store, but a couple he knew that transported boats through the area picked them up for him, he said.

It was around 25 years ago that Lang owned and operated J.R.'s Sports Pub in Florida. The statues went in the bar and he said the clientele quickly suggested they move on to the karaoke stage with the performers.

"That's were they started," Lang said. "Then I sold the bar and moved them to the motel I owned."

Lang also ran the Two Rivers Inn in Dunnellon, Fla. The statues were so popular that he agreed to leave them there when he sold the hotel and bought another in Charleston, S.C., he said.

A 2016 Dunnellon newspaper article reported on a community fundraising effort and a local artist who donated labor to use concrete and other materials to repair the two statues after vandals partially melted the poured fiberglass.

Lang bought a second set for the South Carolina hotel. He moved that set to Jamestown and bought another for the second hotel, he said.

As part of the recent renovation to the two Jamestown hotels, Lang said he found a way to permanently fasten the statues to antique wagons. Prior to that he brought the statues inside to avoid theft or damage from falling over.

"Because they are outside more I have to paint them more often but that's all right," Lang said.

Lang said he also plans to show his 1927 Model T Ford hotrod this spring and summer. It is unique for its 26-foot homemade camper on top, he said.

"I built it in Florida and will bring it up in April," Lang said. "We are bringing Elvis (an impersonator) to town from Las Vegas, and he will be staying at the hotel while he plays at Spiritwood Lake."

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