Chess was one of the premier blues labels of the 1950s and 60s, also releasing R&B, soul, jazz, gospel and rock. They released records by every major blues artist in Chicago, including John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Walter and many others.
Brothers Leonard Chess and Phil Chess emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1928. In the 1940s they owned the upscale Macomba nightclub in Chicago's Southside neighborhood and several other bars. Blues artists performed regularly at The Macomba, and the Chess brothers realized they were not being recorded. They bought in to the small R&B label The Aristocrat Of Records in 1947, then bought out the remaining partners in 1949 and changed the name to Chess in 1950. On October, 16th, 1969 Leonard Chess dies and the label sold to General Recorded Tape (GRT) for $6.5 million.
Company: Chess Producing Corp. or sometimes Chess Records
Associated to the publishing company Arc Music (2) or Arc Music Corp., that was co-founded by Leonard Chess in 1953.
Labelcode: LC 0156
For company credits, see:
-Chess Record Corp. / Chess Records Corp. / Chess Recording Corp.
-Chess Producing Corp.
-Chess Records / GRT Record Group / GRT Corporation
-Sugar Hill Records Ltd.
-MCA Records, Inc.
First pressings identification:
1458-1670 (1951–1957): Blue and silver label, with three chess pieces at the top.
1671-1798 (1957–1961): Blue label with vertical Chess letters.
1799-1840 (1961–1963): Either blue label with vertical Chess letters or multi–color label.
1841-1950 (1963–1966): Black label, however there are many pressing plant variations. Some 1800 series issues exist on blue and silver, others on multi-color Chess labels.
1951 and higher (1966 forward): Light blue label.
A few red vinyl issues appeared in the 1530–1550 series. Inexplicable pressing plant variations exist, such as numbers as high as 1966 (mid-'66) with the blue label, with vertical Chess letters on left side.