There are only a handful of record labels that can claim to have changed the course of popular music. Chess Records is one of them. Responsible for signing and developing some of the greatest names in music, such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf, Chess provided the blueprint for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones helping set the fundamental foundation stone for pop as we know it.
Not only did Chess lay the template for rock'n'roll, releasing what is widely considered to be the first ever rock'n'roll record, 1951's 'Rocket 88' by Jackie Brenston
they are also responsible for kick-starting the British blues and beat boom the following decade. For without Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley
and others there would be no Rolling Stones,
who were so in awe of the label and its stars that they named themselves after the Muddy Waters tune of the same name and took a pilgrimage to the Chess recording studios to record their 'Five By Five' EP and pay homage to the bluesmen that had inspired their group's early sound.
Although known primarily as the home of the blues, its output covers a stunning mix of styles including rock'n'roll, doo-wop, r'n'b and soul as well as progressive new directions in psychedelic jazz and funk. Now it is time for it to take its rightful place at the top table alongside other groundbreaking black music labels such as Motown, Studio One and Stax.
It's not just household names Ð The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and many others who are indebted to the label. In 1997, NuYorican Soul covered Rotary Connection's I Am The Blackgold Of The Sun; Blueboy's 1998 Top 10 hit, Remember Me reworked Marlena Shaw's Woman Of The Ghetto.
Muddy Waters' 1968 album, 'Electric Mud' and Howlin' Wolf's 'The Howlin Wolf Album' from 1969 continue to provide sample sources for hip-hoppers and DJs including David Holmes and DJ Shadow. Amy Winehouse and Duffy's take on vintage soul owes much to Chess as does the bluesy garage-rock of the White Stripes.
Most recently the label's story was made into a film; director Darnell Martin's 2008 Cadillac Records, which was overseen by Marshall Chess and starred Beyonce, Mos Def and Adrien Brody.
You think you may know Chess. Listen again and you'll be surprised; still vibrant, it is time to really hear the music that has influenced generations.
- This indispensible guide to the legendary Chess label features 100 tracks across four discs and is sequenced for listening pleasure, like a DJ's set perhaps, rather than strictly chronologically.
- Includes UK chart hits by Chuck Berry, Etta James, Fontella Bass and Ramsey Lewis as well as key tracks by pioneers - Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker.
- Packaged in a compact DVD-sized hardcover book.
- Beautifully presented, 36-page booklet with extensive sleevenotes, rare photos and track-by-track guide by Mojo writer and music expert Lois Wilson
- Features an introduction by Marshall Chess (the son of founder Leonard Chess, he was head of Chess Records for many years and also ran Rolling Stones Records in the early 70s).