EAGLE POINT, Ore.– It’s not every day you get a chance to play with a member of the legendary Blues Brothers from Saturday Night Live. But in a special celebration Saturday, one Oregon blues musician got that chance.
Johnny Kennicott, or Johnny Wheels as he’s known, was a lucky guest who got play with SNL legend Dan Aykroyd and actor and cannabis grower Jim Belushi, brother to the late John Belushi – the other half of the Blues Brothers.
Wheels, who will be celebrating his 36th birthday on Monday, has been playing music, specifically on a harmonica, since his father passed away when he was a child. When Wheels was 12, his world changed once again when a diving accident injured him, paralyzing him from the chest down, leaving him a quadriplegic.
He hasn’t let it slow him down though. He has a band called Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys and has won several awards for his music and is set to perform at the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.
However, he’s been working to purchase a new van, equipped with the mechanics he needs for his wheelchair. A GoFundMe page set up for him has a goal of $80,000 and on Saturday night, they’ve nearly reached it.
Wheels says Belushi invited him out to Belushi’s Harvest Party on his farm in Eagle Point and turned it into a fundraiser for him. The hundreds that paid to attend the party and the GoFundMe that was put up for Wheels turned into some $54,000.
“Overwhelming. Made me cry, you don’t expect all that stuff and then here I have Jim Belushi and he’s helping me out,” said Wheels. “He’s such a nice guy and he’s become my friend. We’re really close friends.”
All the money will go to help pay for a new van that’s equipped for his wheelchair. That way Johnny Wheels and the Swamp Donkeys can keep on rocking the blues and touring the state – and Wheels can keep playing the harmonica he loves so much.
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.