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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.

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

Little WIllie John
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.

Little Willie John had a hit with “Fever," but after Peggy Lee recorded it in 1958, it became her signature song. Here’s Peggy Lee and “Fever” from a 1958 television show:

Peggy Lee’s is still the best known version, despite remakes by the likes of Madonna and Beyonce.

Many blues artists have taken a crack at it, including Buddy Guy, James Cotton and Bobby Blue Bland.

“Fever” sounds perfectly natural as a Piedmont-style acoustic blues in Precious Bryant’s 2002 recording. Here’s a short clip of Precious Bryant playing another Piedmont blues:

Since the 1970’s The Neville Brothers have been some of the most influential players in  New Orleans rhythm and blues. Here’s an amazing live version of “Fever” from 1987:

Here are the full versions of “Fever” tracked through time:

1956: “Fever” Little Willie John

1958: “Fever” Peggy Lee

2002: “Fever” Precious Bryant

2008: “Fever” The Neville Brothers

The Blues Time Machine” is a weekly feature tracking one great blues song through time. The series is hosted by John Kessler, from KPLU’s  “All Blues,” and is published here every Friday and airs on KPLU 88.5 on Fridays at 12:10 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

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.