Photo of Phil Chess

Chess Records Co-Founder Dies

The day after cantankerous old perv Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday by announcing his first new album in 38 years (simply titled Chuck and due for release sometime next years by Dualtone Records), Phil Chess, the co-founder (with his brother Leonard) of pioneering blues and rock ‘n’ roll record label Chess Records, died at age 95.

Signing and (in most cases) launching the careers of such blues and early rock legends as Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf, the Chicago label’s importance in the pantheon of 20th century American music cannot be overstated. Phil – largely regarded as the more business-oriented of the Chess brothers – also produced many of the label’s acts in their studio, where British Invasion lynchpins The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds would also eventually record, drawn by their love of the music of the label’s artists and the impact it had on their own.

After Leonard’s death in 1969, and the sale of Chess Records to GRT Crescendo, Phil relocated to Arizona and bought a Phoenix radio station (the Chess brothers had also operated an R&B station in Chicago during the ‘60s). He lived in the state for the rest of his life, before passing away in the early morning hours of October 19th in Tucson.