Chess Records lives again!


The CD Cover | tc418

The Chess label trademark has reappeared on a new CD featuring rock musicians , “Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey, Going Back Home”. Recorded in a week with producer Dave Eringa and Johnson’s touring band, its 11 tracks include 10 Johnson compositions.

“Going Back Home” is not going to win awards for innovation, but it’s feisty fun and a rousing testament to a distinctive figure in British rock history, writes Jill Lawless on The Jackson Sun.

The Magnificents

The Magnificents were a well known vocal group but the recording issued on Checker 1016 does not appear to be by the vocal group usually known as The Magnificents and issued on other labels.

Marv Goldberg, in his article on The Magnificents, notes that the Checker record credits Kansoma as the copyright owners, so Chess Treasures has contacted Bobby Poe, the current copyright owner for Kansoma (BMI).

Mr. Poe had never heard of the record! He does have the copyright of “Do You Mind” which he has registered as being written by Johnny Dubas. Johnny Dubas was the bass player for Big Al Downing and The Rhythm Rockers at the time and later was bass player for The Chartbusters. The song copyright was registered with BMI on December 31, 1960. The song “The Dribble Twist” is not currently listed by BMI as a Kansoma copyright, which confirms the information printed on the label, as seen in photos. There is a possibility that “The Dribble Twist” is by completely different artistes from a completely separate source.

Mr Poe advises us that “The Magnificents” on this recording may have featured Johnny Dubas and Vernon Sandusky, but the record might also have been by Big Al Downing and his band, of which they were members; and the recording was probably first released on his father’s Kansoma Records label.

We would like to thank Mr. Poe for his invaluable help. We are trying to track a copy of the recording so that we can listen to it and identify the artists involved, if possible. If anyone else has further information to the identity of “The Magnificents” on Checker 1016 or has a copy of the record, please leave us a comment. Thank you!

Sun Records and Chess


The Prisonaires recording or broadcasting live at radio station WSOK | NPR | tc201

NPR highlights the formation of Sun Records in Memphis, who when they first started leased much of their output to Chess.

NPR – The dawn of Sun records

Harvey Fuqua


Harvey Fuqua | Soul Sides | Public Domain | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty | tc017

Harvey Fuqua was born on July 27, 1929 and died on July 6, 2010 of a heart attack. He founded the seminal Moonglows, helped build up the Chess label then helped build the Motown label, helped Marvin Gaye get established; he was the nephew of Charlie Fuqua of The Ink Spots and was the uncle of film director Antoine Fuqua.

While at Chess he recorded duets with Etta James, having hits with “If I Can’t Have You” and “Spoonful”.


Harvey Fuqua, centre, with the Moonglows, including Marvin Gaye, second left, in 1959 | Guardian | tc021

Mr Fuqua also became a trustee of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, set up to provide some of the music’s pioneering figures with the financial rewards they were due.

Guardian obituary

The Unsung Legend: Harvey Fuqua

Memphis Slim

101 | 3 June 2020


Memphis Slim | Billboard | tc020

Blues pianist, singer, and composer John Len Chatman (Memphis Slim, sometimes known as Peter Chatman) was born on September 3, 1915 and died in Paris, France on February 24, 1988 of renal failure. He made more than 500 recordings. The recordings issued by Chess were actually made for and first issued on Premium Records; the masters were acquired by Chess after Premium failed. He moved to Paris in 1962 and lived there permanently, becoming a Commander in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France.

The Miracles

The Miracles, photographed in 1962. Copyright details being sought | tc044

The Miracles, one of the most successful soul vocal groups of the 1960s into the 1970s, were formed in 1955. They were originally known as The Five Chimes and the Matadors before settling on the Miracles name in 1958. They had a number of records released before their first hit record “Bad Girl” which was produced by Berry Gordy. Gordy did not originally have national distribution for his new company, so the masters were leased to Chess Records for national distribution. The line up on “Bad girl”, which was recorded in 1959, is thought to be: Ronnie White, Pete Moore, Smokey Robinson, Robert and Claudette Rogers and Marvin Tarplin.

Ronnie White was born on April 5, 1939 and died on August 26, 1995.
Warren Thomas “Pete” Moore was born on November 19, 1938 and died on November 19, 2017.
William “Smokey” Robinson Jr. was born on February 19, 1940.
Robert Edward “Bobby” Rogers was born on February 19, 1940 and died on March 3, 2013.
Claudette Annette Rogers Robinson was born on June 20, 1942.
Marvin Tarplin, not pictured, was born on June 13, 1941 and died on September 30, 2011.

Chess Treasures

Back in the 1960s my local record shop, which was in a basement, got flooded, and some of the LPs in stock got a bit damp – so I managed to get a copy of an LP on the legendary Chess label, “Pieces of Chess”, which had been lovingly curated by the late Mike Raven, for just ten bob. The cover had dried out and the record inside the sleeve was untouched.

The Chess label ran from the 1940s to the 1970s and put out hundreds of classic blues, jazz, jump, rhythm and blues, soul, gospel and rock records. Some of them were produced by Chess themselves; some of them were leased and some of them were picked up from other smaller local companies for national and international distribution. The contribution to music made by Chess Records is enormous.

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Leonard, Phil and Marshall Chess. Copyright details being sought

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