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Leonard Chess (Born 12th March, 1917)

PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:42 am
by john poole
Born Lejzor Czyz in Motal, Poland one hundred years ago today, Leonard arrived in the US in 1928. Together with his younger brother Phil he became part of Aristocrat Records in 1947. By 1950 they had bought out the other owners and transferred the business to Chess Records.

Andrew Tibbs - 'Bilbo is Dead' (1947)
One side of the first Aristocrat release with his involvement - Leonard had a co-writer's credit although it is unclear what contribution he made, if any. Unlike some other independent record company owners and producers he does not appear to have been in the habit of claiming composing credits. Bilbo was the unlamented governor of Mississippi Theodore G. Bilbo who had recently died.

Shortly afterwards Aristocrat recorded Sunnyland Slim accompanied by his guitar player Muddy Waters, who also got to record for the label (initially as "Muddy Water"). Leonard can be heard beating a bass drum on Muddy's 1951 recording of 'She Moves Me'. Muddy's drummer Elgin Evans seemed unable to play what Leonard wanted and he was told to get out of the way - "I'll do it"
with Little Walter - the first session that his harmonica was recorded via an amplifier

Leonard died on 16th October, 1969, aged only 52, shortly after he had sold Chess to GRT Records. Henry Stone had the theory that the stress from a long running law suit brought by Don Robey of Duke/Peacock Records over the Five Blind Boys of Alabama was at least partly responsible for Leonard's early death. A judge had twice ruled in favour of Robey, although this was overturned on appeal on both occasions. Phil lived to be 95. ... illed-him/