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Phil Chess
Birth nameFiszel Czyż
Born(1921-03-27)March 27, 1921
Motal, Poland (now Belarus)
DiedOctober 18, 2016(2016-10-18) (aged 95)
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
Genres Chicago blues, electric blues, blues, rock and roll, R&B, soul music
Occupation(s)Record company executive
Years active1950–1972
Labels Chess

Philip Chess (born Fiszel Czyż; March 27, 1921 – October 18, 2016) was a Polish-born American record producer and company executive, the co-founder with his brother of Chess Records. [1]

Early life

Chess was born to a Polish-Jewish family [2] in the village of Motal, then in eastern Poland and now part of Belarus. [3] He and his brother Lejzor, sister Malka and mother followed their father to Chicago in 1928. The family name was changed to Chess, with Lejzor becoming Leonard and Fiszel becoming Philip. [4]


Chess served in the army during World War II. In 1946, after leaving the Army, Phil joined Leonard in running a popular club, the Macomba Lounge. Two years later, Leonard became a partner in Aristocrat Records, a local company that recorded a wide range of music, [5] and Phil joined in 1950. The company then changed its name to Chess Records, and began concentrating on R&B music, signing and recording artists such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, "Sonny Boy Williamson" (Rice Miller), Robert Lockwood Jr., Etta James, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf and Chuck Berry. [6] [7] Phil Chess was actively involved in producing many of their blues and rock and roll recordings. The company expanded successfully through the 1950s and early 1960s, until it was sold to GRT in 1968.

Chess was also a co-founder with his brother of L & P Broadcasting, which operated radio station WSDM. [8]


Phil Chess retired to Arizona in 1972. [9] Phil and Leonard Chess were both inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame as non-performers in 1995. In February 2013, Phil Chess attended the ceremony to receive one of The Recording Academy's Trustees Awards for non-performers presented to him and his brother. [10]


Chess died at his home in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 95. [11] [6]


  1. ^ Broven, John (2010). Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers. United States: First Illinois Paperback. p.  499. ISBN  978-0-252-03290-5.
  2. ^ Bloom, Nate (December 5, 2008). "Jewish Stars". Cleveland Jewish News.
  3. ^ McArdle, Terence (October 20, 2016). "Phil Chess, co-founder of music label that brought blues to the world, dies at 95". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ "Spinning Blues Into Gold, by Nadine Cohodas". Archived from the original on 2017-02-04. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
  5. ^ Campbell, Robert L.; Pruter, Robert; White, George R.; Kelly, Tom; Paulus, George. "The Aristocrat Label". Retrieved July 7, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (19 October 2016). "Phil Chess, Whose Record Label Elevated Unknown Blues Musicians, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  7. ^ John Sippel (18 September 1982). "Chess LPs Trace Rock's Roots". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 10–. ISSN  0006-2510.
  8. ^ Carry Baker (20 January 1979). "Hawaiian purchases Chicago WLUP-FM". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 27–. ISSN  0006-2510.
  9. ^ "Inside Track". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 18 December 1976. pp. 73–. ISSN  0006-2510.
  10. ^ Downey, Ryan J. (February 10, 2013). "Anoushka Shankar, The Temptations, Chess Records, More Celebrated at Grammy Special Merit Awards". Billboard.
  11. ^ O'Donnell, Maureen. "Phil Chess, co-founder of Chicago's Chess Records, dead at 95". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 20 October 2016.

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