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!”

Ways To Connect

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the new video version of Record Bin Roulette!

There is a lot of disagreement about whether a “sugar rush” exists, but these studies have obviously been conducted by scientists without young children. But there is agreement that anything this good must be bad for you.

Hey! It's the shiny new video version of Record Bin Roulette! Check it out!

It's a shame that the only thing a person can do for eight hours a day is work. Can't eat for eight hours; can't drink for eight hours; can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a person can do for eight hours is work.

Companies like Coca Cola spend billions of dollars on advertising each year, much of it for product placement in movies, TV and books. But sometimes it happens the other way around—products find themselves written into pop songs. From Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” to Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz”, brand names have inspired some big hits…and the advertising is free.

Here’s the spiffy new video version of Record Bin Roulette:

We could shock you with startling statistics about how the richest 1 percent own about 50 percent of the wealth, and how it’s been getting worse for the rest of us for a few decades now. But that’s depressing! And we’d much rather watch cartoons.

Like this 1933 Merrie Melodies gem “We’re in the Money”:

Watch the episode in glorious video here:

Tommy Johnson’s songs may not be very well known, but he was a hugely influential blues player and also may be the source of one of the most enduring legends of the blues – the Devil and the Crossroads.

While this legend is sometimes associated with Robert Johnson (no relation), it was Tommy Johnson who first cultivated a story about himself that he met the devil at a crossroads, and sold his soul in exchange for his musical ability.

 Somehow we got along fine before there were cell phones. You couldn’t call as your plane was taxiing to the gate, couldn’t call for help when the car broke down, and couldn’t call ahead when visiting friends. We were often late, had to ask strangers for help, and dropped in on folks without warning. It was kinda nice, actually.

Hey kids! It’s the latest thing…radio with pictures! Now Record Bin Roulette has visuals to accompany the sound! Thanks to our intrepid intern Katy, who came up with this new way to enjoy the show. Check it out!

We actually have a lot in common with Monkeys, Chimpanzees and Apes. Seems we share 96 percent of the same DNA. But it also turns out that we share 50% of the same DNA as a banana, which actually may explain why we all like them so much.

The Tour de France is the world’s epic bicycle race, a grueling 2,000 mile ride that takes 3 weeks.  It’s arguably the most demanding athletic event, said the New York Times, comparing it to running a marathon several days a week for three weeks. With the 99th Tour underway right now, we salute the humble velocipede and their sore-bottomed riders.

The chemical elements are the building blocks of life, including many a pop tune. Since we skipped chemistry in high school, most of our science education came from this song which conveniently names all of the elements. This tongue-twisting footage is an amazing live performance by Tom Lehrer:

That red stuff pumping through our bodies has inspired more than a few hit songs.

Some border on the grisly—Nervous Norvous reached the charts in 1956 with the grisly “Transfusion”. With lyrics like “Slip the blood to me, Bud” and “Pump the juice to me, Bruce”, it was considered offensive to many, and banned from some radio stations. But it also gave famed radio DJ Dr. Demento his name. After Barrett Hansen played “Transfusion” on the radio, people said he had to be ‘demented.’ He was, and the name stuck.

ChrisM70 / Flickr

It all began in 1635 in Boston—the nation’s first public school, the Boston Latin School. There were only 9 students enrolled back then, but they had the distinction of enjoying the very first summer vacation. That got us thinking about school-day songs, and we found that there are more songs about the end of school than about school itself.

This week we honor our Dads with a kaleidoscope of music videos. Starting on the sentimental side, here’s former Mouseketeer Paul Peterson singing, without a trace of irony, scorn or contempt, a ballad called “My Dad”:

The great scholar Dave Barry wrote, “Marriage is very much like a birthday candle, in that 'the flames of passion burn brightest when the wick of intimacy is first ignited by the disposable butane lighter of physical attraction, but sooner or later the heat of familiarity causes the wax of boredom to drip all over the vanilla frosting of novelty and the shredded coconut of romance.”


Space flight is finally becoming a reality for non-astronauts. Very, very rich non-astronauts. For a couple hundred grand, you can reserve a seat on Virgin Galactic, which is planning trips to space and beyond. Your fellow passengers might include Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie and Stephen Hawking, all of whom have already reserved window seats.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Blues singer Janiva Magness just released a new CD, Stronger For It, and was recently in town performing at Jazz Alley. She and her 4-piece band visited KPLU’s Seattle Studio and performed 4 songs from the new CD. It’s her 9th release, but the first to feature songs written by her.

Jason A. Samfield

Memorial Day originated after the Civil War, and commemorates soldiers fallen in battle. Record Bin Roulette salutes with song and video.


Musicians generally get along with each other, but when their disagreements happen in public, things get interesting.

In a foul and farcical fillip of fate, the woman who created Mother’s Day became its biggest critic. Anna Jarvis worked hard to make Mother’s Day a holiday. She started the effort in 1908, and by 1914 convinced President Woodrow Wilson to declare it an official national holiday. But nine years later, commercialization of the day had become so rampant, that she became a major opponent of the very holiday she helped create. She was actually arrested while protesting against it.

Anna Jarvis worked hard to make Mother’s Day a holiday. She started the effort in 1908, and by 1914 convinced President Woodrow Wilson to declare it an official national holiday. But nine years later, commercialization of the day had become so rampant, that she became a major opponent of the very holiday she helped create. She was actually arrested while protesting against it.

This week we show our gratitude to Mom with a collection of distinguished sayings…

His life reads like a blues song … 1920’s, a young preacher playing the blues, despite his church’s opposition. Kills a man in self-defense, 2 years in prison, and comes out to team up with the best-known blues man of the day, Charley Patton.

After limited commercial success of his own, he fades from view, working on farms and railroads. Thirtyfive years later, some dedicated blues fans track him down and he begins performing around the world, finally getting recognition as a blues master.

Express Monorail / Flickr

It’s getting harder to keep a secret these days--between your ATM card, Facebook and the NSA snooping on emails and phone calls, our lives are pretty much on record in some form.  Of course people will continue to lie and try to keep secrets, but even the Secret Service couldn’t keep their Columbian Expedition under cover...

For many of us singing in school or church choir was our first experience making music. By high school we had been assigned to our respective risers. BASS-- for the boys who had matured early. These tended to be football players, many with facial hair in the 9th grade. TENOR-- for those boys who were still waiting for the big change. Some tenors had voices higher than the ALTOS, who were generally more sensitive and bookish than the haughty SOPRANOS, who were generally acknowledged to be the loudest and therefore most important.

Aging is a high price to pay for maturity. But, getting old seems to be the only way to live a long time. One advantage of being old … you’ve already learned everything the hard way.

This week we play Doctor, examining those practitioners of psychiatry, proctology and podiatry with our chilly stethoscopes. Now bend over a bit, this may feel a little uncomfortable…

Pop stars and Nuns. They don’t usually go together, with some notable exceptions.

But in 1973, Sister Janet Mead, a Roman Catholic nun from Australia had an international smash hit on her hands with her single “The Lord’s Prayer."

Art imitates life in this week’s episode, some great (and not-so-great) songs have been inspired by actual factual folks.

I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes... I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak ... opening to the 1940’s radio drama The Whistler.

Whistling has been around as long as we’ve had lips, and that puckering propensity has had a vital role in many iconic movies and songs.

thebadastronomer / Flickr

At this time of year, most of us in the northern hemisphere are pretty darn glad to be seeing more sunshine. But our old Sun has been having some flare-ups lately, sending massive bursts of energy towards Earth, threatening communications and electrical grids. So before the power goes out, here are some of our favorite solar songs.