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Chess Records

From Academic Kids

This is an article about the phonograph record label "Chess Records". For records in the game of Chess, see World records in Chess.


Chess Records was a USA record label, based in Chicago, Illinois. It was run by the brothers Leonard Chess and Phil Chess. Chess Records was started as Aristocrat Records, Leonard and Phil bought a stake in 1947. In 1950 they became sole owners and renamed Aristocrat Records to Chess Records.
In 1952 they started Checker Records, mainly as a gospel label. In 1955 they launched a jazz sub label: Argo Records (which changed name in 1965 to Cadet Records because a similar named label existed already in the UK). In 1969 the Chess brothers sold the label to General Recorded Tape for $6,5 million. In October 1969 Leonard died and by 1972 only the Chess recording studio was operational. In August 1975 GRT sold what remained of Chess Records to All Platinum Records. The master tapes were eventually bought by MCA Records.

Chess Records became famous for the blues music, rock & roll and rhythm & blues recorded and released by the label. Artists associated with Chess Records included Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Gene Ammons, Jimmy Rogers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, The Moonglows, Etta James, Minnie Riperton, and others.

A popular story is that the Rolling Stones owe their origin to a Chess Records release: Keith Richards saw Mick Jagger on Dartford railway station, Keith started talking to him because he noticed he was carrying a copy of Chess LP-1427, "The Best of Muddy Waters." He wanted to know where Jagger purchased it.

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