Phil Chess

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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.
GenresChicago blues, electric blues, blues, rock and roll, R&B, soul music
Occupation(s)Record company executive
Years active1950–1972

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

Early life[edit]

Chess was born to a Jewish family[2] in the village of Motal, then Poland, now in 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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