LEONARD CHESS – Leonard Chess born on March 12, 1917 was a record company executive and
the founder of Chess Records. He was influential in the development of electric blues. He was was born as Lejzor Czyz in a Jewish community in Motal, Poland (but now within Belarus).
He and his brother Fiszel, sister Malka and mother followed their father to Chicago in
1928. The family name was changed to Chess, with Lejzor becoming Leonard and Fiszel becoming Philip.
Leonard and his brother Phil became involved in the black nightclub scene on the South Side of Chicago in
1946, when they took over the Macomba Lounge. In 1947, Leonard became associated with Aristocrat Records, increasing his share in the company over time; eventually he and Phil would acquire complete control. The Chess brothers moved
the company away from black pop and jazz and other genres into down home blues music with artists such as Muddy Waters.
In 1950, the Chess brothers renamed the company Chess Records. "My Foolish Heart" (Gene Ammons), "Rollin' Stone" (Muddy Waters) and "That's All Right" (Jimmy Rogers) were among the first
releases on the new label. Leonard Chess played bass drum on one of Muddy Waters' sessions in 1951.
contacted Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records to help find and record new artists in the South. Phillips supplied Chess with recordings by Howlin' Wolf, Rufus Thomas and Doctor Ross among others. Of these, Howlin' Wolf especially became
very popular, and Chess Records had to fight over him with other companies which had also been supplied with Wolf recordings by Phillips. In time, other important artists joined up, including Bo Diddley and Sonny Boy Williamson,
while Willie Dixon and Robert Lockwood Jr. took on a significant role behind the scenes.
In the 1950s, Chess Records' commercial success grew with artists such as Little Walter, The Moonglows, The Flamingos and Chuck Berry, and in the '60s with Etta James, Fontella Bass, Koko Taylor, Little
Milton, Laura Lee and Tommy Tucker, as well as with the subsidiary labels Checker, Argo and Cadet. As the 1960s progressed, Chess's recording enterprise branched out into other genres including gospel, traditional jazz, spoken word, comedy,
and more. In the early 1960s, Chess became involved in the broadcasting business as part owner of WVON-AM radio and later acquired WSDM-FM, both in Chicago. In October 1969, a few months after selling his namesake label to
General Recorded Tape, Leonard Chess died on October 16, 1969 of a heart attack.
Music industry historian John Broven has written that "Leonard Chess was the dynamo behind Chess Records, the label that, along with Atlantic and Sun, has come to epitomize the independent record business. Leonard Chess
set new standards for the industry in artist development, deal making, networking, and marketing and promotion…".
PHILIP ''PHIL'' CHESS - born in is an American record producer and company executive, the co-founder of Chess Records. He was born as Fiszel
Czyż in a Jewish community in Częstochowa, Poland. He and his brother Lejzor, sister Malka and mother followed their father to Chicago in 1928. The family name was changed to Chess, with Lejzor becoming Leonard and Fiszel becoming
In 1946, after leaving the Army, Phil joined Leonard
in running a popular club, the Macomba Lounge. Two years later, Leonard became a partner in Aristocrat Records, a local company that recorded a wide range of music, and Phil joined in 1950. The company then changed its name
to Chess Records, and began concentrating on rhythm and blues music, signing and recording artists such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, "Sonny Boy Williamson" (Rice Miller), Robert Lockwood Jr., Etta James and Chuck Berry. Phil Chess was
actively involved in producing many of their seminal blues and rock and roll recordings. The company expanded successfully through the 1950s and early 1960s, until it was sold to GRT in 1968.
Phil Chess retired to Arizona in 1972. Phil and Leonard Chess were both inducted to the Blues Hall
of Fame as non-performers in 1995. In February 2013, Phil Chess attended the ceremony to receive one of The Recording Academy's Trustees Awards for non-performers presented to him and his brother. Phil Chess, the legendary co-founder of Chicago’s
Chess Records, died in Tucson, Arozona on October 19, 2016 at the aged 95.
MARSHALL CHESS – born March 13, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois and is the son and nephew of the founders of Chess Records, the Chicago-based independent record label that first recorded an unprecedented
list of African-American, blues and early rock and roll artists such as: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, Rufus Thomas, Memphis Minnie, Elmore James, Willie Dixon,
Chuck Berry, Etta James and Buddy Guy, among others.
Chess and his brother Phil were two American immigrants from the Jewish community in Motal, Poland who in 1947 had purchased part of an independent record label called Aristocrat Records. Within a few short years the label was renamed
after the family's Americanized surname 'Chess' and quickly produced a list of American blues artists that would come to be regarded as the greatest collection of the genre in recorded history.
Marshall learned every aspect of the record business while working for sixteen years with the founders
of Chess Records; his father Leonard and his uncle Phil doing everything from pressing records and loading trucks to producing over 100 Chess Records projects and eventually heading up the label as President after the GRT acquisition
in 1969. In the late 1960s Marshall also ran his own record label Cadet Concept, a division of Chess Records. He created and produced the Rotary Connection, which became the springboard for Minnie Riperton’s career. He
signed John Klemmer and created a new format which was heralded as the first jazz-fusion album, ''Blowin' Gold''. He signed the underground black rock legends Black Merda. His Cadet Concept also imported and released the first and only
American hit, Pictures of Matchstick Men, by the British rock group Status Quo. He also created and produced the controversial psychedelicized blues albums Electric Mud, by Muddy Waters; and, This Is Howlin' Wolf's New Album.
He Doesn't Like It. He Didn't Like His Electric Guitar At First, Either by Howlin' Wolf. He restored his reputation by producing the jam album Fathers & Sons with Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Otis Spann, Paul Butterfield, Duck Dunn, Sam Lay,
and Buddy Miles in 1969.
Departing from Chess Records in 1970
after the death of his father, Marshall was hired as the founding president of Rolling Stones Records, a vanity record label for the English rock group he had known since the mid 1960s when the band had used Chess studios in Chicago to record
songs while touring the United States. He was an active executive manager, touring with the band, and being involved with record production as well as outside business interests. He helped create the Rolling Stones famous tongue and lip
logo and was involved as executive producer on seven Rolling Stones albums during the 1970s. In 1977 Chess resigned from Rolling Stones Records after realizing that too much drugs, sex, and rock n roll was undermining his health
and leadership in the company. He was replaced with Earl McGrath on the advice of Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegün, the Stones newly signed record distribution partner.
As well as music, Chess produced three films in the 1960s and 1970s: The Legend of Bo Diddley, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Rolling Stones, and the unrated, unreleased concert tour documentary Cocksucker Blues by Robert Frank.
During the 1980s and 1990s Marshall produced projects for both Sire Records and Island Records and for Howdy Doody. He also produced many rap records at the beginning of the rap generation.
He worked with rap star KRS-One, developing an audio comic book project, Break The Chain, for Marvel Comics.
In 1984, Marshall Chess became a partner in the famous blues and rock publishing company ARC Music, which he began actively heading in 1992. More recently he finished a film project called
Godfathers and Sons directed by Marc Levin, for the PBS series The Blues, produced by Martin Scorsese. In the film, Marshall produces a hip hop version of the classic Chess track “Mannish Boy” featuring rappers Chuck D and
Common recording with original members of the Electric Mud band.
1999 Chess founded the Czyz Records record label, with his cousin Kevin. On 21 September 1999 the first record released on Czyz Records was the Murali Coryell album 2120, named after Chess' old Chicago address at 2120 South Michigan.
Czyz (pronounded "Chez" or "Chaz") was the original Polish surname of Leonard and Phil Chess when they arrived in America from Poland.
In the year 2000, Marshall, his son Jamar Chess, and partner Juan Carlos Barguil created their own Latin music administration company and all-digital label named Sunflower Entertainment
Co., Inc. Sunflower has quickly become the leading licensor and administrator of all genres of independent Latin music. More recently, Jamar Chess has overseen the signing of Vakero, the numbere 1 Dominican hip hop artist and leader of
the Rap Dominicano movement. There have been over 1.8 million views on YouTube of Vakero music and promotional videos.
Marshall has been on Sirius Satellite Radio's Blues Channel since 2007 hosting the Chess Records Hour, a three times a week show featuring the music and history of Chess Records. He
also is the executive music producer on two movies, Cadillac Records, released in 2008, and Who Do You Love, which is now in post production and is scheduled for 2009 release.