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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.

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


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.

Not many films exist of Lonnie Johnson performing, but here is a wonderful segment of a similar song “Too Late to Cry”:

In the 40’s and 50’s it was common for many artists to release the same song within months or weeks of each other, so there are many versions of “Somebody’s Got To Go” from the early to mid 40’s. Joe Turner, one of the most powerful and best known singers of the day also released it in 1941. Turner’s career saw music pivot from jazz and blues into jump and rock and roll. He was able to change with the times, with a career that lasted from the 1920’s thru the 1970’s. Here is a mid-50’s film clip of Big Joe Turner (pre Bill Haley) pounding out “Shake, Rattle and Roll”:

Tab Benoit combines blues, rock and Cajun music to make his own style of “swampy” blues. He is also a champion for coastal and wetland restoration along the Gulf Coast. Though a prolific writer, he always includes some well picked cover songs on his recordings, and released a funky, high-energy take of “Somebody’s Got To Go” in 2007.

The song’s reach continues to extend into rap and hip-hop. The group Cappadonna released the song in 2008, using as its focal point a sample of the Joe Turner recording from 1941.

Here are the complete versions of “Somebody’s Got To Go”:

Lonnie Johnson “Somebody’s Got To Go”1941

Joe Turner “Somebody’s Got To Go”1941

Tab Benoit “Somebody’s Got To Go”2007

Cappadonna “Somebody’s Got To Go”2008 (EXPLICIT LYRICS)

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.

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