CHESS Records

Chess Records Documentary

Load More

The Chess brothers, Phil and Leonard Chess started Chess Records. 2120 South Michigan Avenue is now a City Tourist Landmark.Marshal Chess inherited the company.

Now recognised for its value to R ‘ n B, Soul and especially the blues. When the Rolling Stones turned up in the early sixties to visit Howlin’ Wolf the place was not well known. The Stones put it on the international map by having Howlin’ Wolf on their TV show and recording the instrumental 2120 South Michigan Avenue as a tribute to Chess.

Rumours abound that a recording test at Chess could result in losing your song as your demo became their property!

Anyway, just about all the Chicago Blues came through 2120. A lot of Monkey business most probably, but a lot of great blues and soul.

Chess had its own style and sound – tracks like the Radiants Ain’t No Big Thing capture it. Fontella Bass had a major hit with Rescue Me, a typical Chess sounding track.

The CHESS Record company was located at 2120 South Michigan Avenue Chicago USA

The Rolling Stones made a record: “2120 South Michigan Avenue ” a brilliant instrumental on thier first LP as homage to CHESS.

The biggest hit that CHESS had was “RESCUE ME” by Fontella Bass

In Manchester at the Twisted Wheel Club – the birth place of what would later be known as ‘Northern Soul’ turned it over and also made a hit of the Blusey flip side “The Soul Of The Man”.

Cousins at Chess

ETTA JAMES was just one of the amazing artists at Chess. The record labels shows an early sixties Chess UK release by Sugar Pie Desanto (Etta James’s cousin) on the Pye International label. By 1966 Chess was releasing on its own UK label.
They combined their talents on two releases; ‘Do I Make Myself Clear’ 1965 and in 66′ with the fantastic ‘In The Basement’ which became a Soul anthem at the Twisted Wheel Club in Manchester.

All the best clubs are in a cellar!

In the case of the Twisted Wheel the dance floors were in the ‘basement’ lower level of a cellar. in Brasennose Street Manchester. However what Etta and Sugar Pie are singing about are basement parties in housing projects, in Chicago.


Chess had almost all the great blues artists recording at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
The Rolling Stones were named after this great recording and they did an instrumental on their first LP in homage to 2120 South Michigan.
Avenue. When the Stones toured the USA they made a beeline to visit the Chess studio and almost forced Ed Sullivan to have Howlin’ Wolf on their first TV appearance in the USA.
Chess had a huge impact in England almost everything on the Pye International Chess label was a collectors item for blues fans in the early sixties when there was a boom in blues music in the country. England appreciated the Black American ethnic music which was not recognized by the white dominated music industry in the USA. Black artists were played on Black Radio Stations and on the white stations their music was ripped of by cover artists. England wanted the real thing and sought out the originals. Chess had a plethora of originals.

When the English Mods moved towards Soul music Chess was there too.

Chess was run by two Jewish brothers and the Chess story has been told adequately by others in books and film, its the British side of the story that is little understood in the USA. Where most of the British groups in the sixties were well into Stateside Blues and R&B.


Chess Pieces: The Very Best of Chess Records

Complete Introduction To Chess

Cadillac Records [Blu-ray]

Wikipedia: Chess Records