“The hard-driving rock and r & b outfit was Boston's ultimate
bar/roadhouse band in its heyday nearly 30 years ago. Like
the Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi),
Duke and the Drivers had funny stage names, played their
music in earnest, and in between songs indulged in goofy,
amusing shtick that also paid homage to their mentors.

Duke and the Drivers landed a national recording contract
and toured with some big acts, but they never broke through
the way Jake and Elwood did, no doubt in part because its
members became real-life lawyers, real estate developers
and TV news anchors, not superstar comics.

Eventually, the Drivers went their separate ways. But they've
regrouped from time to time and apparently plan on doing it
annually, according to one of the few serious comments that
drifted from the House of Blues stage Saturday night to a
packed room.

Rhinestone Mudflaps, Mad Mississippi Buffalo, Sam Deluxe,
Cadillac Jack and Earthquake Morton showed up with a bevy
of their family and friends, including sax player Jimmy
Biggins, bassist Billy Mather, drummer Chuck Purro and
keyboardist Doug Dube.

At times there were 10 people onstage, including Sam
Deluxe's son playing hotshot lead guitar. The crew led the
audience through three hours of sweaty, fun club music that
ranged from new tunes and their own semiclassic numbers
such as "Check Your Bucket" and "What You Got" to cover
songs such as "Iko Iko" and the Motown classic, "Shotgun."
The general mood of the shows--from Friday through
yesterday, all benefits for the Boston Food Bank--perhaps
may be best summed up by the sole country ditty the band
attempted with its chorus, "Yabba Dabba Do, the King is
gone, and so are you."

There was never a false sense of importance to Duke
and the Drivers' sound
--it was music to dance and drink to,
period. It still is, but an older and wiser crew of Drivers now
advocates a more temperate lifestyle.

Just after the band dug into a feisty version of "Dr. Rock and
Roll," for example, they shared their current regimen on show
days: "Two jiggers of Geritol and a two-hour nap this
afternoon." Obviously, the group's nonstop jive and patter,
always part of its charm, is still intact. It has even managed to
work 21st century technology into the act. The Duke never
made it to the gig. The Duke never made it to any of their
gigs. That's always been part of the package. But in the past,
the apologies were strictly verbal. Saturday, the set began
with a video of a partially obscured Duke, allegedly on the isle
of Capri, who regretted that his Lear jet was locked up at
Rome's airport, making him unavailable for the evening's
amusements.

Good news for the band: They've obviously acquired
younger fans over the years, because after a later
announcement about the Duke's absence a Gen-Xer near the
bar turned to her date and said, "Didja hear that? The lead
singer never showed up.”