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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 'Broke and Hungry' 80 years later

Blind Lemon Jefferson was one of the defining guitarists of Texas Blues of the 1920’s. Influenced by the country and gospel music of Texas, he also heard Mexican music played by farm workers. His unique guitar style and high, eerie voice were memorable; he recorded over 100 songs and was one of the best known bluesmen of his day. Some of his other well-known songs are “Black Snake Moan” and “Matchbox Blues”. He recorded “Broke and Hungry “ in 1926.

Sleepy John Estes was another country blues artist of the 1920’s and 30’s, hailing from Tennessee. He often teamed up with pianist Hammie Nixon and mandolinist Yank Rachell, mostly playing the regional house party circuit. Although Estes composed some beloved blues standards (“Drop Down Mama” and “Someday Baby”), he lived in relative poverty. His recording “Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too” was made in 1929, with Nixon and Rachell. This is a film clip of Estes performing :

Junior Wells joined Muddy Waters’ band in 1952, replacing Little Walter, when he was just 18 years old. He also had his own recording career going and by the late 50’s was having success with singles like “Little By Little” and “Messin’ With the Kid”. Often joined by Buddy Guy on guitar, Wells brought a bit of James Brown’s funky attitude to Chicago blues. His 1990 recording of “Broke and Hungry” features an ace rhythm section of Johnny B. Gayden on bass, Ray Allison on drums and Lucky Peterson on piano. Here’s a video clip of Junior Wells’ signature song, “Hoodoo Man Blues” :

William Clarke was a master of the chromatic harmonica, Little Walter’s signature instrument, and in many ways he brought Walter’s amplified harp sound into the modern blues age. Clarke often with played with large bands and learned to play his harmonica in ways that complemented horn sections. His recording of “Broke and Hungry” appeared on his 1994 album Groove Time. Clarke’s harmonica mastery is evident in this video clip:

Here are the complete versions of “Broke and Hungry” tracked through time:

Blind Lemon Jefferson- “Broke and Hungry” 1926

Sleepy John Estes- “Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too” 1929

Junior Wells- “Broke and Hungry” 1990

William Clarke- “Broke and Hungry”

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.