Sad and very significant news just in of the passing of Phil Chess, who ran the legendary Chess label with his brother Leonard. He was 95 years old, and outlived his brother by 47 years.
It would be hard to overstate the influence of Chess Records. Perhaps even more so than Sam Phillips’s Sun label - Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, and not forgetting that Sam actually recorded and leased to the brothers some seminal early Chess sides by Howlin’ Wolf and Jackie Brenston - the sounds that Chess captured and released shaped rock music as we know it. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC – the music of these bands would not exist if the blues and rhythm & blues recorded by Chess didn’t exist. And how many Chuck Berry songs did the Beatles cover? Yes, it’s as simple as all that.
Of course Chess also recorded soul, and the influence of both their blues and soul has spread into all facets of modern popular music. Today’s R’n’B isn’t called R’n’B for nothing…
We’ll save a more detailed obituary til later. In the meantime let’s remember the music with ten of the very best from Chess!
1. Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (with Ike Turner) – Rocket 88
2. Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightnin’
3. Muddy Waters – I’m the Hootchie Cootchie Man
4. Little Walter – My Babe
5. Sonny Boy Williamson – Bring It On Home
6. John Lee Hooker – One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
7. Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
8. Chuck Berry – Johnny B Goode
9. Buddy Guy – First Time I Met The Blues
10. Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind