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ILLINOIS ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME

The Legendary Label Chess Records is Being Revived

Lauded as the label behind the birth of rock

Chicago’s Chess Records is now a thing of legends, as it stands behind some of the best blues recordings, as well as R&B and jazz. It has also been lauded as the label behind the birth of rock, as Chuck Berry was one of its recording artists.

As the New Yorker notes, Leonard Chess and his brother Phil recorded some of the greatest Mississippi Delta musicians who rode the Illinois Central Railroad from New Orleans to Chicago.

Now, Leonard’s son Marshall is behind the revival of Chess Records. Marshall’s latest project is New Moves, an album of Chess Records classics reinterpreted by a supergroup that includes the Stones’ backing vocalist Bernard Fowler, the guitarist Skip (Little Axe) MacDonald, and the hip-hop drummer Keith Leblanc, formerly the house session man for Sugar Hill Records.

The tracks on New Moves reflect both the Chess legacy and Marshall’s journey to make peace with it. The project is co-produced with his son, Jamar.

The Legendary Label Chess Records is Being Revived | News | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

In 1967, he started his own Chess imprint, Cadet Concept, to create the sound of Chess’s future: “psychedelic blues.” The next year, Cadet released a Muddy Waters album with wah-wah and fuzz pedals. The old-school aficionados—“blues Nazis,” Marshall calls them—hated it. Howlin’ Wolf, another era-defining Chess artist, called his own psychedelic-blues album “dog shit.” But a generation of hip-hop artists, including Public Enemy’s Chuck D, were later inspired by the new sound.

What would Leonard say about the new record?

“He would say, ‘I hope you’re not ahead of time with this because it’s the same as being behind time.’ Then he would say, ‘Good luck, motherfucker.’”

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CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

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