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Leonard Chess (Lejzor Czyż), the founder with two of his brothers of Chess Records and the promoter of such blues artists as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Willie Dixon, Little Milton, and Little Walter, died at 52 on this date in 1969. Chess was a child emigré from Poland/Belarus. In the 1950s, his company was a major influence in the development of Chicago electric-style blues, and also branched out to record R & B and rock and roll artists, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson, the Moonglows, Fontella Bass, Koko Taylor, and the Flamingos. Chess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. To see a great, short documentary on Chess Records and black music, with Muddy Waters, Joe Cotton, Buddy Guy, and all the rest (!), look below.
“Man, you don’t know how I felt that afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice.”—Muddy Waters