Chicago’s Chess Records & Record Row, tastemakers of early pop, rock , soul & R&B

While recovering from a seasonal cold, I found some interesting documentaries on Chess Records and the competing labels at the same time on the near South side of Chicago. Chess Records was responsible for launching hits by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Etta James, along with bringing blues by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf into commercial awareness. The movies Cadillac Records (2008) and Who Do You Love (2008) are Hollywood’s version of the history, with Beyonce as Etta James in the former.

Interestingly, Chess was the last name of a Polish immigrant entrepreneur, Leonard, who catered to the immigrant Southern black population and found a common outsider perspective with his clientele.

More on Chess Records and the competing labels within walking distance along South Michigan Avenue is in another documentary aired on PBS in 1997 called Record Row:

I had no idea there was any sort of rivalry between Motown Records and Chicago until I started digging a bit.