John Kessler

All Blues Host

John has worked as a professional bassist for 20 years, including a 15 year stint as Musical Director of the Mountain Stage radio program. John has been at KPLU since 1999 where he hosts “All Blues”, is producer of the BirdNote radio program, and co-hosts “Record Bin Roulette”. John is also the recording engineer for KPLU “In-Studio Performances”. Not surprisingly, John's main musical interests are jazz and blues, and he is still performing around Seattle.

His most memorable and satisfying KPLU radio moment was getting an email from Jimmy Lane, a bluesman and the son of blues legend Jimmy Rogers, who said something like “You’re playing the good stuff, keep it up!”

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Blues time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

'The Sky is Crying' with Three Legendary Guitarists

The Blues Time Machine

Elmore James is a giant of the blues. His work as a songwriter, singer and guitarist put him near the top of the short list of greats. The songs he wrote and revived—  “Dust My Broom”, “Cry For Me Baby” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” —are revered as blues standards.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

The Wolf Howls on 'Smokestack Lightning'

Howlin' Wolf

In the span of Howlin’ Wolf’s life and career he saw virtually the entire progression of blues from a rural, acoustic music through the birth of modern rock music. As a young man, he learned guitar from Delta master Charley Patton, and as an elder statesman performed with Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. In between he sang some of the most compelling and memorable songs in all of American music, including “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Obscure Origins of a Blues Classic: 'Catfish Blues'

Robert Petway

The Blues Time Machine

It’s one of the most widely played songs in the blues, but not much is known about Robert Petway, the man who recorded the definitive early version of “Catfish Blues”. The scant information that exists tells a familiar story of a Delta musician who headed to Chicago to make records. But after recording a mere 16 songs in 1941 and 1942, Petway seems to have disappeared from view.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

Trance Blues Inspired by Skip James

The Blues Time Machine

Skip James was one of the first influential blues players. Although he came from the same Mississippi culture that produced Delta blues, James had a unique sound, built around unusual guitar tunings and his eerie falsetto. Robert Johnson based his song “32-20 Blues” around James’ lesser known “22-20 Blues”, and Cream famously covered his song “I’m So Glad” on their 1966 debut Fresh Cream. (a future BTM episode)

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

Still 'Broke and Hungry' 80 years later

Blind Lemon Jefferson

The Blues Time Machine

Blind Lemon Jefferson was one of the defining guitarists of Texas Blues of the 1920’s. Influenced by the country and gospel music of Texas, he also heard Mexican music played by farm workers. His unique guitar style and high, eerie voice were memorable; he recorded over 100 songs and was one of the best known bluesmen of his day. Some of his other well-known songs are “Black Snake Moan” and “Matchbox Blues”. He recorded “Broke and Hungry “ in 1926.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

'My Babe' has gospel roots

The Gospel of the Blues

The Blues Time Machine

Chances are you know the song “My Babe”, made popular by Little Walter in 1955. Except for the lyrics, “My Babe” is nearly identical to the gospel song “This Train is Bound For Glory”, a song that reaches back to the 1920’s.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

Slide guitar wizardry surfaced in 'Stranger Blues'

Slide Guitar Master Tampa Red

The Blues Time Machine

Tampa Red was a slide guitar pioneer who helped create the template for modern blues. His distinctive use of single-string slide melodies in the 1920’s would go on to influence virtually every slide player who followed him, including Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters.

In the days before amplification, he played a steel-bodied resonator guitar, the loudest and showiest guitar available. And he was one of the early adopters of the electric guitar, making the switch in the 1940’s.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

"All Your Love" tracked through time

Otis Rush

Otis Rush brought such passion and emotion to his singing and guitar playing that his music has been called “frighteningly intense”. Rush never achieved the commercial success that he might have, but along with Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, he is acknowledged to be one of the architects of the Chicago blues sound of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

John Henry's legend lives through music

John Henry, Steel Driving Man
Ken Thomas

The Legend of John Henry is an iconic myth of American railroad history, a battle between man and steam drill. One of the intriguing things about the legend is that no one knows for sure if John Henry existed. At least part of the myth is based  on historical events from the mid-1800’s; some say the source lies in Alabama, others point to West Virginia, both places where significant railroad tunnels were dug.

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Blues Time Machine
8:00 am
Fri May 24, 2013

'Bring it on Home,' the long way through time

Sonny Boy Williamson

'Bring it on Home,' the long way through time

Sonny Boy Williamson was a blues originator who helped shape the sound of modern blues. In his life, he knew the first generation of Delta bluesmen, and would go on to see the birth of modern rock music. He played with Robert Johnson in the 1930’s, and with Eric Clapton in the 1960’s.

He was a major radio star in the 1940’s on King Biscuit Time, America’s first live blues radio show. He wrote dozens of songs that became blues standards, notably “Help Me” and “Eyesight to the Blind." He recorded “Bring It On Home” in 1963, but didn’t release it until 1966.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

'High Water Everywhere' and the father of Delta Blues

Charley Patton
Charley Patton

The Blues Time Machine

Charley Patton is considered by many to be the father of Delta Blues. What does that actually mean? A combination of location, timing and talent, put him at the leading edge of the new musical direction of the 1920s. He was one of, if not the first, to play what we might recognize as blues.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Early blues with fife & drum

Fife & Drum players

Early Blues with Fife & Drum

In 1942, Alan Lomax discovered a community of musicians in North Mississippi, who played their own hybrid music that was unmistakably African-sounding. Called “Fife & Drum” music because of its military background, it hearkens back to post Civil War days, when this special and local tradition originated.

Although drumming is a central element of African music, drumming was generally banned during the slavery era. With restrictions easing after the War, and the availability of one-time military drums, Fife and Drum music became a key part of North Mississippi culture.

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KPLU Studio Sessions
12:51 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Joan Osborne and The Holmes Brothers are a recipe for soul

Joan Osborne performing live with The Holmes Brothers in the KPLU Seattle Studios on April 19, 2013.
Justin Steyer KPLU

Want a good recipe for soul music?

Here’s what you do: Start with vocalist, Joan Osborne, who has had pop music hits, performed on The Grand Old Oprey, toured with members of The Grateful Dead and yet never strayed from her roots in rhythm ‘n blues music.

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Blues Time Machine
1:12 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Obscure origins of 'You Don't Love Me'

Willie Cobbs

The Blues Time Machine

"You Don’t Love Me" is a classic blues song that has roots in the 50's and is still being recorded and re-invented. Willie Cobbs, an Arkansas rice farmer, made his way to Chicago in the late 1940's, playing his blues on Maxwell Street, eventually releasing "You Don't Love Me" in 1961.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Bo Diddley's 'Before You Accuse Me' influential as the master

Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley's 'Before You Accuse Me' influential as the master

Bo Diddley may not have had the commercial success of some other performers, but his contributions to American musical culture are huge.

Besides his trademark "Bo Diddley beat," he had a brash sense of style, dressing in outlandish outfits, playing custom-made square guitars and generally having a lot of fun on stage. In fact, he was a key player in the transition from blues to rock and roll, using a hard-edged guitar sound that would influence Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

Bo Diddley recorded "Before You Accuse Me" in 1957.

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