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Leonard Chess

Leonard Chess (March 12, 1917 - October 16, 1969) was a record company executive, founder of Chess Records. Born in Poland, Chess was influential in the development of electric blues. He and his brother, Philip,were pivotal in the Chicago nigtclub scene by 1947. They soon became associated with Aristocrat Records, and moved the company closer to pure blues music with artists like Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim and Willie Dixon. In 1948, the Chess brothers took control of the company and renamed it Chess Records. "My Foolish Heart" (Gene Ammons), "Rollin' Stone" (Muddy Waters) and "That's All Right" (Jimmy Rogers) showcased the company's new direction. Perhaps most influential of the early signees was Little Walter, whose distinctive harmonica-playing revolutionized the blues.

Chess contacted Sam Philips (of Sun Records) to help find new artists. Philips found Howlin' Wolf, Bobby Bland, Rufus Thomas and Dr. Isaiah Ross. Of these, Howlin' Wolf became the most popular and influential on Chess Records at the time. Soon, more legendary artists joined up, including Bo Diddley and Sonny Boy Williamson. In the 1950s, Chess Records' commercial success only grew with artists like The Moonglows, The Flamingos, Chuck Berry, Etta James, Fontella Bass, Koko Taylor, Little Milton, Laura Lee and Tommy Tucker. Leonard Chess died in 1969.