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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.

The long flight of Muddy's 'Honey Bee'

Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters was born in rural Mississippi, and learned his blues at the feet of Son House and Robert Johnson.

By the 1940’s he took that delta blues to Chicago and led the gradual transition to electrified urban blues. He then recorded “Honey Bee” in 1951 with just bass and guitar accompaniment. The sound was closer to the delta, but you can hear the beginnings of the more aggressive modern sound starting to happen.

Here’s a very high quality video of Muddy Waters live from 1970:

Albert King played left-handed, turning the guitar upside-down without re-stringing it. This gave him a unique sound – where other guitarists pushed to bend notes, he would pull. He is one of the most copied guitarists in the blues and rightfully so – he contributed a huge amount to the vocabulary of blues guitar.

King was a huge influence on Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He recorded “Honey Bee” in 1983. Here is an interview/performance clip of Albert King in 1980:

It’s always been hard to categorize Cassandra Wilson. She’s just as likely to sing blues as jazz or country. She honors the past while re-imagining those songs in very creative ways. Her 2003 recording of “Honey Bee” is an unlikely combination of acoustic instruments with a post-modern funk groove.

Here’s a brief interview with Cassandra Wilson:

Here are the complete versions of “Honey Bee” tracked through time:

Muddy Waters “Honey Bee” 1951

Albert King “Honey Bee”  1983

Cassandra Wilson “Honey Bee” 2003

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.