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

'High Water Everywhere' and the father of Delta Blues

Charley Patton
Charley Patton

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

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

"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 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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Jazz & Blues
12:01 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

'Another Man Done Gone' - a powerful tale of woe on a chain gang

Vera Hall

Repression of African Americans didn’t stop at the end of the Civil War, and prisons and chain gangs were full of black people arrested for minor violations. This song, “Another Man Done Gone”, tells of the death of a man on one of those chain gangs.

Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Vera Hall singing “Another Man Done Gone” in 1940, and praised her as having the "loveliest untrained voice [he] had ever recorded."

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Blues Time Machine
12:01 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

'Somebody's got to go' - the path from from blues to rap

Lonnie Johnson, one of the first guitar masters.

Lonnie Johnson was one of the first American guitar masters, with a style that bridged jazz and blues, as well as country styles. Though often labeled as a “blues” player, he was versatile and accomplished enough to be a guest artist with Louis Armstong’s Hot Five in 1927, and with Duke Ellington in 1928.

Among his many contributions, he is considered the first to play single-string guitar solos and was a major influence on jazz guitar pioneers Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He recorded “Somebody’s Got To Go” in 1941.

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Blues Time Machine
12:01 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

'Back Door Man' - good blues is rarely about behaving yourself

Howlin' Wolf

Willie Dixon didn’t make his career writing songs about people who behaved themselves, and “Back Door Man” is no exception — it’s about a guy who cheats and then brags about it.

Songs like this were well suited to the larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf, who was already a well-established, middle-aged bluesman when he recorded it in 1961.

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Blues Time Machine
12:01 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Waters' 'Trouble No More' came out of Estes' 'Someday Baby Blues'

Sleepy John Estes was a master of country blues with a “down-home” feeling. A little rough around the edges, but loaded with emotion. Though his music wasn’t complex, his songs have lasted through the years, and have been sung by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

In his 1935 recording of “Someday Baby Blues”, the guitar is barely heard, the mix dominated by Hammie Nixon’s harmonica and Estes’ plaintive voice.

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Blues Time Machine
4:38 pm
Sun March 24, 2013

'Walkin' Blues' still has legs

Legendary bluesman Son House

It’s one of the defining songs of the Blues, written by one of its formative figures, Son House. The opening lyric “Woke up this morning…” would be considered trite today, but its 1930 recording date makes it more iconic than anything.

With its simple but insistent guitar rhythm and mournful lyrics, “Walkin’ Blues” is a virtual blueprint for Delta Blues, and a powerful influence on the development of modern blues.

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Jazz & Blues
12:00 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

'Early in the Morning' - samba, rumba and history

Louis Jordan's music was a bridge between jazz and rock.

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

'Shake 'Em On Down' created the cutting edge for blues

Bukka White

Most blues started in the country before becoming urbanized, and Bukka White brought his brand of Mississippi blues to Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s.

It is likely that he met and learned from elemental bluesman Charley Patton, and he was known for playing a National steel guitar with a slide. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1937 and established the cutting edge.

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Little Walter's 'Mellow Down Easy' rips through time

Little Walter

Little Walter made a harmonica sound like nothing that had been heard before – somewhere between a saxophone and an electric guitar. By the early 1950’s he not only used amplification, he used the amp to creatively alter his sound with distortion and sonic effects.

You might say he was the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica. One song in particular has rolled through history: 'Mellow Down Easy.'

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Blues Time Machine
12:00 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Still a mystery who wrote 'One Way Out'

It’s another one of those mysteries — who actually wrote “One Way Out”?

Elmore James recorded it in 1961, but didn’t release it until ’65. Sonny Boy Williamson released a version in 1961 and 1965 and G.L. Crockett had a 1965 hit with the same song under a different name.

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Blues Time Machine
12:05 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Many rivers converged to make a New Orleans classic: 'Iko Iko'

Mardi Gras Indian
Joel Mann

It’s one of the most iconic songs from New Orleans, and like the city, it’s origin and meaning are a product of may different influences.

Its meaning is still being debated by scholars and linguists, but “Iko Iko” was first recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, who wrote the pop song “Jock-A-Mo” based on 2 different Mardi Gras Indian chants. The Mardi Gras “Indians” are actually African-American groups who have been parading as Indian tribes at Mardi Gras since the mid-19th Century.

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