Phil Chess | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty | 16482
Phil Chess, who co-founded the legendary label Chess Records with his brother Leonard and helped make Chicago the epicenter of the blues, died Wednesday at his home in Tucson, Arizona, his nephew Craig Glicken confirmed. He was 95 and had been in good health.
Born Fiszel Czyż in Poland in 1921, Chess’ family immigrated to Chicago and changed their last name to Chess in 1928. After a stint in the army, in 1950 Chess joined his brother Leonard – who purchased a stake of Aristocrat Records – in the music business. Their label was eventually renamed Chess Records.
Today, Buddy Guy told the Chicago Sun-Times: “Phil and Leonard Chess 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. 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.”
Chess Treasures sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.