1950 - 1975
Chess Records was an American record company, founded in 1950 in Chicago and specializing in blues and rhythm and blues. Over time it expanded into soul music, gospel music, early rock and roll, and occasional jazz and comedy recordings, released on the Chess label and on its subsidiary labels Checker, Argo, and Cadet.
The entire Chess catalogue is currently owned by Universal Music Group and managed by Geffen Records.
Founded and run by two Jewish immigrant brothers from Poland, Leonard and Phil Chess, the company produced and released many singles and albums regarded as central to the rock music music canon. The musician and critic Cub Koda described Chess as "America's greatest blues label."
Chess was based at several different locations on the south side of Chicago, initially at two different locations on South Cottage Grove Ave. In the mid-1960s, Chess relocated to a much larger building, at 320 E. 21st Street, the label's final Chicago home.
In 1969, the Chess brothers sold the label to General Recorded Tape (GRT) for $6.5 million. In October 1969, Leonard Chess died and by 1972, the only part of Chess Records still operating in Chicago was the recording studio, Ter-Mar Studios.