Phil Chess, Pioneering Chess Records Co-Founder Dies Age 95


Phil Chess, Chess Records co-founder died at his home yesterday in Tuscon, Arizona. He was 95.

Born Fiszel Czyż in Poland in 1921, Chess, along with his family immigrated to Chicago in 1928 changing their name in the process. In 1950, after a stint in the army Phil Chess, along with his brother Leonard, formed Chess Records, a label that would go on to launch the careers of many renowned blues artists including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James and Bo Diddley.

Blues guitarist Buddy Guy told the Chicago Sun-Times, where the story first broke, that “Phil and Leonard Chess were cutting the type of music nobody else was paying attention to… and now you could take a walk down [Chicago’s] State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 storeys tall… They started Chess Records and made Chicago what it is today, the Blue capital of the world. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

In 1995 the brothers were inducted into the Blues hall of fame for their contribution to the genre, an influence that would ventually extend to the emergence of rock’n’roll, having successfully popularised and showcased so called “race music”, their releases rooted in rhythm’n’blues.


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