The Chess brothers with Etta James in the late '50s.
The Chess brothers with Etta James in the late '50s.

RIP: Phil Chess, Co-Founder Of Famed Chicago Blues Label

Born Fiszel Czyż, Philip "Phil" Chess, co-owner with brother Leonard of seminal Chicago blues label Chess Records, died Oct. 19 at age 95.

The brothers signed and recorded a long list of American blues and R&B artists such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Joe Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Etta James, Bo Diddley, "Sonny Boy Williamson" (Rice Miller), Robert Lockwood Jr., Willie Dixon, Fontella Bass, Koko Taylor and Chuck Berry. At the start the brothers reached out to Sun Records' Sam Phillips, asking him to help them find and sign roots artists from the South. Phillips licensed Chess recordings by Howlin’ Wolf, Rufus Thomas and Doctor Ross, among others. The story behind the Chess brothers' label inspired the film Cadillac Records


When the Stones caught on and first visited the US in 1964, they recorded one of their first major hits, "It's All Over Now," at Chess Records and named an instrumental "'2120 South Michigan Avenue," in the label's honour.

Leonard Chess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and both brothers are in the Blues Hall of Fame.

Leonard died in 1969 at the age of 52, just months after Chess Records was sold to General Recorded Tape (GRT) in 1969 for $6.5M.

-- Backgrounder information: Chess Records and the 10 7"'s that helped shape modern music -- The Vinyl Factory


Leave a comment