A Tribute to Chess Records: The Giants of the Blues
April 25 /8:30 pm 11:00 pm
Lejzor and Fiszel emigrated to America in 1928 and eventually found themselves in Chicago where they were able to purchase a club called the Macomba Lounge in 1946. This ghetto joint with live music was frequented by ‘hip cats’ of dubious character but it eventually led them to making records.
They changed their names to Leonard and Phil Chess and got involved with the Aristocrat Records. Leonard initially intended to record jazzy music but when that proved less than profitable in 1948 he decided to take a chance and released “I Can’t Be Satisified” by Muddy Waters. It became an instant hit with the first pressing sold out in two days. By 1950, they had taken over Aristocrat and renamed it Chess Records.
The Chess brothers’ label changed the history of music working with artists like Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner (who was part of the Delta Cats band which released Rocket 88, often considered the first rock-and-roll tune ever recorded), Muddy Waters (who released the immortal I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man in 1954), Willie Dixon (who is credited with writing over 500 songs), Little Walter, Etta James and Kiki Taylor.
Chess Records became a milestone for American vernacular music. The brothers played a key role in the world of blues and rock and roll, changing music forever.
In 1969, Leonard sold Chess Records and not long after suffered a fatal heart attack. But the label’s legacy lived on. The Chess Records story inspired the film, Cadillac Records, and the label’s recordings are considered classics today.