Chess Records

Chess Records was an American record company established in 1950 in Chicago, specializing in blues and rhythm and blues. It was the successor to Aristocrat Records, founded in 1947. It expanded into soul music, gospel music, early rock and roll, and jazz and comedy recordings, released on the Chess and its subsidiary labels Checker and Argo/Cadet. The Chess catalogue is owned by Universal Music Group and managed by Geffen Records.

Chess Records
Parent companyUniversal Music Group
Founded1950 (1950)
FounderLeonard Chess
Phil Chess
Defunct1975 (1975)
StatusActive in the present day (since its later incarnations)
Distributor(s)Geffen
GenreVarious
Country of originUnited States
LocationChicago, Illinois

Established and run by two Jewish immigrant brothers from what was then Poland, Leonard and Phil Chess, the company produced and released many singles and albums regarded as central to the rock music canon. The musician and critic Cub Koda described Chess as "America's greatest blues label".[1]

Chess was based at several locations on the south side of Chicago, initially at South Cottage Grove Ave.[2] The most famous was 2120 S. Michigan Avenue, from May 1957 to 1965,[2] immortalized by the Rolling Stones in "2120 South Michigan Avenue", an instrumental recorded there during the group's first U.S. tour in 1964.[3] The building is now the home of Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation.[4] In the mid-1960s, Chess relocated to a much larger building, the former home of Revere Camera Company at 320 E. 21st Street, the label's final Chicago home.[5] Shortly before the death of Leonard Chess in 1969, the brothers sold the company.


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