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KPLU All Blues host John Kessler has expanded "The Blues Time Machine," which has been a popular segment on his weekend blues shows. The weekly series tracks one great blues song through history - from its earliest recording to its latest and sometimes, with some surprising interpretations. "The Blues Time Machine" airs on KPLU on Fridays at 12:10 p.m. during the "Blue Plate Special," and on All Blues Saturdays and Sundays at 8 and 11 p.m.

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.

Elmore James’ 1961 recording is a straight ahead blues shuffle, with a horn section providing some counterweight to his slicing guitar lines and half-screamed vocals. A radio repairman by trade, Elmore James was known to have rewired his amplifiers to get a distorted sound, years before distortion became a key element of rock and roll. Apparently no film or video exists of Elmore James performing — it surely would have been exciting to watch.

Sonny Boy Williamson 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 “One Way Out” in 1961, but his 1965 version is better known, and the one included here.

This is an interesting clip of Robbie Robertson talking about meeting Sonny Boy Williamson:

There’s a good chance the first time you heard “One Way Out,” it was by The Allman Brothers Band, who recorded it in 1971 and released it in 1972. The live recording has all the elements that made them unique: the relentless beat of two drummers, the intertwining guitars of Dickey Betts and Duane Allman and Gregg Allman’s gruff vocals.

Here’s a great live performance of the Allmans doing “One Way Out” with Warren Haynes from 1995:

Here are the complete versions of “One Way Out”:

elmore james.mp3
Elmore James “One Way Out” 1961
sonny boy williamson.mp3
Sonny Boy Williamson “One Way Out” 1964
allman brothers.mp3
The Allman Brothers Band “One Way Out” 1971

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 KNKX 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 KNKX “In-Studio Performances”. Not surprisingly, John's main musical interests are jazz and blues, and he is still performing around Seattle.