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!”

Pages

Blues Time Machine
7:00 am
Sat December 14, 2013

'Cold Shot,' Stevie Ray Vaughan's real Texas Shuffle

Stevie Ray Vaughan
Scott Newton

Stevie Ray Vaughan almost single-handedly brought blues to the mainstream in the 1980’s and 90’s with over a dozen Billboard singles and four Grammy awards. He’ll always be considered one of the most original guitar players of all time.

Though musically untrained, he was an astute student of the blues, and much of what he popularized is built on the work of his fellow Texas bluesmen.

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Everybody's got the 'Fever,' but Peggy Lee's got it bad

Little WIllie John

Chances are you’ve heard Peggy Lee’s iconic version of “Fever”– it’s one of the steamiest love songs ever written. But the original recording was released two years earlier by Little Willie John in 1956.

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

'Kokomo Blues' Among the Roots of 'Sweet Home Chicago'

“Sweet Home Chicago” is one of the best known blues songs ever written. But historians seem to agree that when Robert Johnson recorded the song in 1936, he borrowed heavily to make his masterpiece.

“Kokomo Blues” is clearly one of the building blocks of that better known blues song. Scrapper Blackwell came out with it in 1928.

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Following "Blues With a Feeling" through cutting-edge changes

Little Walter

Here’s a perfect example of a song that changed with the times, and was at the cutting edge of those changes.

Drummer and singer Rabon Tarrant recorded “Blues With a Feeling” in 1947, a time when big band swing music was in transition to rock and roll. This version straddles both genres with the beat of rock and roll, but the more jazzy instrumentation of piano, sax and trumpet.

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Robert Johnson at the Crossroads represents Delta blues the best

Robert Johnson, circa 1935.
Hooks Brothers

If I had to pick one person to represent Delta blues at the peak of its expression, it would be Robert Johnson.

Saying that he was a superlative guitar player, impassioned singer and masterful lyricist seems barely adequate to convey the importance of the work he accomplished in his 27 years. Many of his songs became not only blues standards but would be a huge influence on rock music.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

'Eyesight To The Blind' and the Rock Opera 'Tommy'

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. His ability to span eras is a testament to the timelessness of his voice and harmonica.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
11:30 am
Fri November 1, 2013

'Traveling Riverside Blues' and the Roots of Led Zeppelin

Robert Johnson has become a mythical figure of the blues, who acquired his prodigious skills in a deal with the devil at the crossroads. The truth is he was a man who worked very hard to turn himself into a musician. His early attempts at music – sitting in with legends Charley Patton and Son House—were not successful, and he didn’t appear to have much in the way of musical talent.

But then Johnson found a teacher in Ike Zinneman, an unrecorded Mississippi blues player, spending a year developing his musicianship.

Read more
The Blues Time Machine
11:30 am
Fri October 25, 2013

The Piedmont Blues of "Crow Jane"

It’s hard to trace the exact source of “Crow Jane”, but it’s a song that has outlasted many others from the early days of the blues. Its roots lay in the Piedmont region of Virginia and North and South Carolina. Rev. Gary Davis was known to perform it during the 1920’s, and the first recording was made in 1927 by guitarist Julius Daniels. Daniels is important partly because he was one of the first Black guitarists to record in the Southeast, inspiring others to follow.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
11:30 am
Fri October 18, 2013

'Sitting on Top of the World' with the Mississippi Sheiks

The Mississippi Sheiks were a popular string band of the 1920’s and 30’s, with a sound that was a crossover between country music and blues. Though Mississippi-based, their music differed from delta blues in some important ways.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
11:30 am
Fri October 11, 2013

'Nobody Knows You', Classic in Any Genre

The Empress of The Blues

This iconic hard-luck song was a hit when Bessie Smith recorded it in 1929, and with its timeless message and memorable melody, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” has been a favorite for singers in almost every genre including jazz, blues, folk and rock. Bessie Smith was the most popular female jazz and blues singer of the 1920’s, and the highest paid black entertainer of the day. Known as “The Empress of the Blues”, she often worked with the top tier players in the business, including Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins and James P. Johnson.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
11:55 am
Fri September 27, 2013

'Mercury Blues' Still Running after 60 Years

Cars make great musical metaphors, and they’ve inspired some famous blues songs like “Cadillac Boogie”, “Maybelline” and “Mustang Sally”. K.C. Douglas came out with “Mercury Boogie” in 1949, a song that would go on to be a widely covered blues standard, known as “Mercury Blues”. Ford purchased the rights to the song for advertising (“Crazy ‘Bout a Ford Truck”), and it was a #2 hit for country singer Alan Jackson in 1993.

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Patton's 'Pony Blues' Still Kicking

Charley Patton

Charley Patton was one of the first to play what we might recognize as Delta blues, putting blues into a strong and syncopated rhythm. A powerful singer with an aggressive guitar style, he was also a masterful entertainer, and one of the best-known traveling performers of his time.

Read more
Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

The Long Life of 'Stop Breaking Down'

Robert Johnson

Eric Clapton called Robert Johnson "the most important blues singer who ever lived."

Saying that Johnson was a superlative guitar player, impassioned singer and masterful lyricist seems barely adequate to convey the importance of the work he accomplished in his 27 years. 

Read more
Studio Sessions
2:31 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Marcia Ball Performs Live in the KPLU Studios

Marcia Ball performing live in the KPLU Seattle studios on August 27.
Justin Steyer KPLU

Pianist/singer Marcia Ball is one of the best-known  players of Louisiana blues, swamp blues and boogie-woogie. While in town for a show at Jazz Alley, we were lucky enough to have Marcia stop by for a solo performance and interview hosted by All Blues' John Kessler. 

Read more
Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Blues for the 'Big Boss Man'

Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed is one of the most influential bluesmen in history and his songs will always be part of the blues repertoire. "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," "Bright Lights, Big City," “ You Don't Have to Go”, are just some of the songs Reed made popular.

His style was easy-going and non-threatening, which made it accessible to white audiences of the 50’s and 60’s. Perhaps because of that, Reed sold more records than other blues stars like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

Read more

Pages