"Memphis Bounce" b/w ''Sixty Days'' (Gilt-Edge 5026) by Slim Rhodes is released and
reviewed in Billboard. It is the second of four discs to be culled from the two Sam Phillips' sessions.
Over the course of the next month Sam Phillips worked out a deal
with the Bihari brothers for both of his new artists, and on March 1 he sent sides by both Rosco Gordon and Walter Horton with some assurance, he felt, that the Biharis would pick out at least one single by each for release. In the fall of 1950 they had finally
put out the first Joe Hill Louis single, ''I Feel Like A Million'' backed with ''Heartache Baby'' (Modern 795), but from Sam's point of view it hardly made up for the way they had treated him previously. From his perspective, one release over a period of six
months did not exactly constitute a binding marriage. The Bihari brothers might think they were the only game in town, but he'd be damned if he'd be yoked to those pissants for life. So when he met Leonard Chess, who just happened to show up in town on a Southern
promotion swing the very day that Sam sent off his new sides to the Biharis, Sam listened carefully to what Chess had to say.
Leonard Chess was a tough-talking hustler
from Chicago with a record company that he ran with his younger brother, Phil. Not quite thirty-four-years old but looking older, with thinning hair and a gaunt, wiry body, he and his brother had arrived from Poland at eleven and seven, five years after their
father had established a junk business in Bronzeville, on Chicago's teeming South Side. He had gotten into the record business in 1947 after running a tavern on the 3900 block of Cotton Grove Avenue and realizing that the live entertainment that he was presenting
was in any cases as good as the records that he had on the jukebox. After buying out his original partners, at Buster Williams' suggestion he changed the name of the company from Aristocrat to Chess in June of 1950 (Buster said the new name, an Ellis Island
simplification of the real family name, was short, sharp, and direct, and everyone knew the game of chess), and his first two releases were modest hits. The first, by jazz saxophonist Gene Ammons, was by far the bigger seller, but the second set the trend.
''Rolling Stone'' by Mississippi-born blues singer Muddy waters, was very much in the vanguard of the new down-home blues market, a trend that had in effect begun with the astounding success of John Lee Hooker's ''Boogie Chillen'' on the Modern label just
one year earlier. When his tavern burned down in the fall of 1950, Leonard received a much-needed infusion of capital from the insurance, and the new label was enjoying its first big blues hit with Muddy waters' ''Louisiana Blues'', which in contrast to Hooker's
improbable million-seller, was unlikely to sell more than twenty-five or thirty thousand copies. Leonard, in fact, was in town to promote that record and Muddy's upcoming release, ''Long Distance Call'', when Sam Phillips met him for the first time over at
Dewey Phillips' show called ''Red Hot and Blue'' on WHBQ.
Sam Phillips could sense from the start that Leonard was different from the Bihari brothers. For one thing,
with a new company just struggling to get under way, he was hungrier. For another, he was less smooth, less sure of himself. But like them, he was a smart street hustler, driven, intense, and like Dewey Phillips he spoke the language of his artists informally
and without affectation (''Hey motherfucker'' could be the easygoing greeting of either one, but then Leonard might lapse into Yiddish if he was in the company of a landsman).
to Sam Phillips, ''I kind of liked Leonard, he didn't really have very much money at the time, but he'd heard about my studio, and he came by, and we talked, and he said, 'Man, I'd give anything to work with you'''. And then, right on the spot, he proposed
a deal, they'd split the profits 50-50 on any recording of Sam's that he released, so long as he had the rights of first refusal. ''And the first thing I gave him was ''Rocket 88''.
88'', an original number by a young group out of Clarksdale, Mississippi called the Kings of Rhythm, was a song that came to Sam Phillips indirectly through his association with B.B. King. King had met the kid who led the group, nineteen-year-old Ike Turner,
a few years earlier, when B.B. Was still Riley King, still living in Indianola, Mississippi, with his wife, Martha. He was playing a little theater in Clarksdale, and this kid had a full-scale band, the Top hatters, and asked if he could sit in on piano. As
young as he was, he had obviously gone to school on boogie-woogie, he had both energy and imagination to burn, and at his invitation Riley stayed with him for a night or two at his mother's house. Just two years later, unbeknownst to Turner, Riley was making
records, and the Top Hatters had split unto two groups, the uptown Dukes of Swing, who could all read music and played the kind of swing that Sam broadcast from the Skyway at the Peabody, and the Kings of Rhythm, a small Louis Jordan-type of jump combo, tenor
and baritone sax, plus a three-man rhythm section, that specialized in just wrecking the point. They were coming back from a gig in Greenville when Ike saw all these cars parked by the side of the road at a big roadhouse outside Chambers, Mississippi, with
a sign that announced that B.B. King was playing there tonight.
Ike Turner had seen the posters on telegraph poles all over Mississippi, he said, with that same''peculiar
name'' on it, but for some reason he had never attached it to the man he knew as Riley King. When he walked into the roadhouse, ''it was B.B., man, and we asked him, could we play a song? Hey said, Yeah, and, boy, we tore the house down. So he said, 'Man,
you guys need to be recording'. And we said, 'Well, what do you do to record? How do you do it? Hey said, 'Well, man, this guy in Memphis has a studio, that's where I record'. He said, ''His name is Sam Phillips, and what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna tell him to
give you a call, man, on Monday for you guys to come up and record'. I said, 'Just like that'? He said, 'Yeah. And sure enough, Monday Sam Phillips called. He wanted to know how soon could we come up. I told him, 'Right now'. And we had no idea, none, what
we were gonna do when we got there'' .
Ike Turner arrives in Memphis with The Kings Of Rhythm, including Jackie Brenston. Sam Phillips signs them to Chess contracts.
Brenston is under age and his mother signs as his guardian. "Rocket 88" and three other titles are shipped to Chess Records in Chicago.
As the bands and singers on Beale
Street began making records, it was natural for everyone to get the idea that they ought to record their own music. The growth of small local record labels provided the opportunity for many of the performers. Memphis musicians all wanted the same thing - a
When there was a success, as occurred in 1951 when Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm hit the charts with Jackie Brenston singing lead on "Rocket 88", everyone's
enthusiasm was renewed. This song, with the musical revolution on Beale Street as a backdrop, helped bring rock and roll to life. Memphis was not only the cradle of this new black music, it was the central focus of an emerging white style.
MARCH 1, 1951 THURSDAY
''Silver City Bonanza'' opens in Theaters. The movie's cast includes Rex
Allen, Buddy Ebsen and The Sons Of The Pioneers.
MARCH 3, 1951 SATURDAY
Bob DiPiero is born in Youngstown, Ohio. His hits include Tim McGraw's ''Southern Voice'', Montgomery Gentry's ''Gone'', George Strait's ''Blue Clear Sky'' and The Oak Ridge Boys' ''American Made''. He marries, and later divorces, Pam Tillis.
MARCH 4, 1951 SUNDAY
Pee Wee King recorded ''Slow Poke'' during the afternoon at RCA Studio A in