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Phil Chess (1921 - 2016)

Getty / Rick Diamond

Phil Chess (1921 - 2016)

Phil Chess, who co-founded the legendary Chess Records label, died Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Arizona, according to multiple news sources. He was 95.

The Chicago-based label recorded Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, and many other famous 20th century blues, R&B, and rock artists.


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Chess, who was born Fiszel Czyz March 27, 1921, in Poland, moved to Chicago with his family, including his co-founder brother Lejzor, or Leonard. The family name was changed to Chess. In 1950, Phil Chess joined his brother in Aristocrat Records, which later changed its name to Chess Records.

Chess Records eventually was sold off, and Phil Chess retired to Arizona.

Chicago blues artist Buddy Guy, who also owns a blues club in Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Chess brothers “were cuttin’ the type of music nobody else was paying attention to — Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on — and now you can take a walk down State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 stories tall,” Guy said. “The Chess brothers had a lot to do with that. They started Chess Records and made Chicago what it is today — the blues capital of the world. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

In 1995, Phil and Leonard Chess were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in their role as record label executives.

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