This week, I’m honoring Chess Records and their contribution not only to soul but the music industry as a whole. Polish immigrants Phil and Leonard Chess (originally spelled Czyz) came to Chicago in the 30’s and decided to open a nightclub after hearing gospel music from a neighboring church. The success of the nightclub and the exclusively black musicians that played there led them to creating a record company that focused first on black artists from Chicago in particular, then expanded into national and international acts. Chess Records brought artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and the Rolling Stones in the public eye.


Though I could have easily played an hour of Muddy Waters and other great blues artists on Chess (they have an INSANE list. We’re talkin almost every blues artist with a household name), I focused on soul and vocal artists of the Chess label. This led me to discover artists who I had never heard before but now are new favorites. The Chess brothers really did have an ear for talent. Expect to hear more from Billy Stewart and Sugar Pie Desanto on future Swoon City!!

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