In The Guardian today, a good piece about Chess Records and Chicago (the Chess brothers pictured above) by Elijah Wald. Here's a snip:
Leonard and Phil Chess were prototypical cigar-chomping, old-fashioned record men who took a chance on music they didn't understand. Jewish immigrants from Poland, they got into the record business more or less by chance: Leonard bought a liquor store in an African American neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago, and did well enough that he opened a small nightclub called the Macomba Lounge. It was a rough ghetto bar, patronised by prostitutes and drug dealers, but from the start it was known for having good music. In the late-1940s, that meant it had jazz groups playing bebop, pop tunes, and mellow blues ballads. That was what the better-paying black patrons preferred to hear, and when Leonard got involved with a small local label, Aristocrat Records, that was what he intended to record.Read the rest of the article HERE.
It was only after the first few records went nowhere that he took a chance on another kind of musician, a Mississippi singer who was too raw and country-sounding to have pleased the crowds at the Macomba.
BBC Four will show a 60-minute documentary about Chess Records next Friday, Nov. 12th. More details: