Phil Chess, who with his brother founded Chess Records, a storied Chicago label that captured great blues musicians like Muddy Waters in their prime and helped power the musical fusillade of rock & roll with vibrant recordings by the likes of Chuck Berry, died on October 19 at his home in Tucson, Arizona. He was 95.
Chess Records was one of the most prominent of the independent labels that became successful in the 1950s by finding little-known performers, recording them, and persuading radio stations (not infrequently with the help of cash payments) to play their records.
Chess Records was best known for recruiting black musicians who had taken their heartbreak, hopes and not a few harmonicas from the South to Chicago and who, with electric guitars and a big backbeat, gave birth to what came to be known as Chicago blues. In addition to Muddy Waters, its roster included, at various times, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and many other Chicago blues stars.
Read more of Phil Chess’ obituary at The New York Times.