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Phil Chess of Chess Records, dead at 95
By
Del Cowie

Published

October 20, 2016

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Phil Chess, the co-founder of Chicago label Chess Records that released music by several legendary blues musicians, died Tuesday in Tucson, Ariz., at the age of 95.

Along with his brother, Leonard, Phil Chess released records by Muddy Waters, Etta James, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and many others. The label's 1951 release "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, a song that featured Ike Turner, is often referred to as the first rock record.

In a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times, renowned blues musician Buddy Guy paid tribute to the legacy of Chess Records: “Phil and Leonard Chess were cuttin’ the type of music nobody else was paying attention to — Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on," said Guy. "And now you can take a walk down State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 stories tall. The Chess brothers had a lot to do with that. They started Chess Records and made Chicago what it is today — the blues capital of the world. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

The blues recordings released on the label directly influenced countless rock 'n' roll artists including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who would go on to form the Rolling Stones, inspiring their instrumental track "2120 South Michigan Avenue."

Additionally, the name of Jagger and Richards' band as well as the long-running magazine Rolling Stone were named after Muddy Waters' Chess Records recording, "Rollin' Stone."

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