Chess Records was an independent record label created on the South Side of Chicago in 1950 by two Polish immigrants named Leonard and Phil Chess. As one of the most important blues labels of all time, Chess Records captured the electric sound of the American South and had a huge influence on the early days of rock and roll. 

Chess Records helped introduce America to Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Etta James. And when these albums made their way across the Atlantic, they inspired the British blues movement that gave us Clapton, Zeppelin, and of course, the Rolling Stones. 

In this episode of Prisoners of Rock and Roll, we’re taking a look at the history of Chess Records: how it got started, their impressive roster of important musicians, and the influence that these songs had on rock and roll. We’re also look at the shadier side of the label, where artists didn’t get paid the royalties they deserved and DJs were given writing credits in exchange for playing records. 

Episode Playlists

Check out all of the songs we discussed in this week's episode here.

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