Jeff Bridges: In Bowling Alleys And In Rock Clubs, The Dude Abides The Big Lebowski star Jeff Bridges is known as an actor, but he's been playing music for just as long. "Whenever I'm working, I'll have my guitar with me," he says.
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In Bowling Alleys And In Rock Clubs, The Dude Abides

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In Bowling Alleys And In Rock Clubs, The Dude Abides

In Bowling Alleys And In Rock Clubs, The Dude Abides

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TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

You know Jeff Bridges the actor.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TRUE GRIT")

JEFF BRIDGES: (As Rooster Cogburn) I don't believe in fairytales or sermons or stories about money, baby sister. But thanks for the cigarette.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "R.I.P.D.")

J. BRIDGES: (As Roycephus Pulsipher) When you ride with me, you ride with the best (hits unidentified object with car). The pace is lightening. Things are going to come at you fast. They're going to come hot (slams brakes).

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

J. BRIDGES: (As Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski) Yeah, well, The Dude abides.

VIGELAND: Well, he's also got a band. They go by Jeff Bridges And The Abiders. Yes, a nod to the Dude in "The Big Lebowski." As NPR's Daniel Hajek reports, the abiders are on tour this month, playing songs from their new album "Live."

DANIEL HAJEK, BYLINE: On stage he's unmistakable. A button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up, long hair slicked back and a beard - strumming a ruby red guitar, Jeff Bridges is as laid back as you'd expect up there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FALLIN' & FLYIN'")

JEFF BRIDGES AND THE ABIDERS: (Singing) It's funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while. It's funny how fallin' feels like flyin' for a little while.

HAJEK: I got to talk to Bridges when he stopped in at NPR West the night before a show.

Do people find it surprising when they find out that you have your own band?

J. BRIDGES: Not too surprising. You know, occasionally you get somebody who says oh, I didn't know you did that, you know.

HAJEK: This is more than just a side gig for him. Bridges already has two albums out. He says he's always strumming his guitar, even when he's on a movie set.

J. BRIDGES: You know, whenever I'm working, I'll always have my guitar with me. And if there's a nice tree to sit by or, you know, a little creek or something I'll go out there. And anywhere's a good place to play music.

HAJEK: To Bridges, it's just like everything else. It's cool.

J. BRIDGES: Yeah, yeah. Going on 65 and I'm living this wild teenage dream and it's so bizarre.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DON'T KNOW")

JEFF BRIDGES AND THE ABIDERS: (Singing) Where's the future that we planned so long we go. Baby, I don't know.

HAJEK: This song off the new album is titled "I Don't Know." It's from the 2009 film "Crazy Heart."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CRAZY HEART")

J. BRIDGES: (As Otis "Bad" Blake) I'm Bad Blake. I was born bad. When I die, my tombstone will have my real name on it. Until then, I'm just going to stay Bad.

HAJEK: Bridges' Oscar-winning portrayal of a fading country music singer brought his songwriting talents into the spotlight. But his singing debut, that happened long before then.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEA HUNT")

HAJEK: Remember that black and white TV show "Sea Hunt" starring his dad, Lloyd Bridges?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEA HUNT")

LLOYD BRIDGES: (As Mike Nelson) I was unaware that my presence underwater was of great interest to a couple of people on the surface.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Do you see him?

L. BRIDGES: (As Mike Nelson) : I see his air bubbles.

HAJEK: As a kid, Jeff appeared in several episodes.

J. BRIDGES: At the time, my girlfriend - and I must've been, you know, seven or eight years old - Andy Kaplan, my next-door neighbor - my dad got us both to do this "Sea Hunt" episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEA HUNT")

ANDREA KAPLAN: (As Karen Crane) I'm scared.

J. BRIDGES: (As Davy Crane) Oh don't cry. Please listen, listen.

J. BRIDGES: And it required us to be trapped in a cave. And I sing, I think, "Oh Susanna."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEA HUNT")

J. BRIDGES: (As Davy Crane, singing) Oh Susanna, oh don't you cry for me.

J. BRIDGES: Maybe if we sing, they'll find us.

HAJEK: Music goes all the way back then.

J. BRIDGES: Yeah, man.

HAJEK: As a teenager, he played all throughout high school. He didn't want to follow his dad's footsteps as an actor. He wanted to play music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNIDENTIFIED")

HAJEK: This recording was made back in the early '80s in a rundown art studio here in LA. It was rented out by a friend of Bridges named Steven Baim.

STEVEN BAIM: What a wild time that was.

HAJEK: Baim says there was only one rule - no cover songs allowed. Everything had to be original.

BAIM: We made Wednesday night the night. And so every Wednesday night for like 10 years, people would gather in the studio.

HAJEK: Bridges says it was the spot to play.

J. BRIDGES: We had a place, man, you know. It was like playing cards, but instead of playing cards, we played music. And he recorded everything we did.

HAJEK: Hours of strange psychedelic recordings, old cassette tapes that have been stored away for years. Bridges says they still get together to play.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNIDENTIFIED")

JEFF BRIDGES: (Singing).

J. BRIDGES: Occasionally, we'd say, you know, come on. Let's Wednesday night jam it, guys.

HAJEK: Just like old times?

J. BRIDGES: That's right.

HAJEK: On stage with The Abiders, it's toned down a little. Bridges plays more country and rock 'n' roll. And it's just his style.

J. BRIDGES: OK, you guys singing?

HAJEK: This was a couple of weeks ago at the historic Saban Theater in Beverly Hills. Between songs, he mingles with the band and casually chats with the crowd, just like he's playing for a group of friends. And there's every kind of Jeff Bridges fan in the audience. Mike Bargeron and Keith Famularo are at the lobby bar sipping cocktails on special today.

MIKE BARGERON: We got some white Russians here.

KEITH FAMULARO: For The Dude.

BARGERON: Drink of choice.

FAMULARO: Drink of choice, exactly.

HAJEK: This music thing seems to fit Bridges pretty well. After a while, you think it's actually The Dude up there playing through the song "What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do." It's just Jeff Bridges having a good time.

J. BRIDGES: Oh man, this is so cool. And being as old as I am and have written so long and, you know, accumulated so many different songs than I want to realize, that's kind of an interesting combination of events there, you know?

HAJEK: It's comforting sitting here listening to his music. As The Stranger, Sam Elliott, said at the end of "The Big Lebowski..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

SAM ELLIOTT: (As The Stranger) It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude, takin' her easy for all of us sinners.

(APPLAUSE)

HAJEK: Daniel Hajek, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE CAN DO")

JEFF BRIDGES AND THE ABIDERS: (Singing) I know that you've been feeling down and blue. But there ain't nothing really wrong with you.

VIGELAND: And for Saturday, that is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Tess Vigeland.

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