Saturday, 6 November 2010

Chess Records / Chicago

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.

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.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

BBC Four will show a 60-minute documentary about Chess Records next Friday, Nov. 12th. More details:

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