Sunday, December 22, 2013

Chess Records: Diggin' My Potatoes

It’s the fourth week of the month and this week we’ll feature selected cuts from Chicago’s Chess Records. As the successor to the Windy City’s Aristocrat Records, Chess was formed in 1950 by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess. The label became America’s premier blues and rhythm and blues outlet and featured artists such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Gene Ammons, Memphis Slim, Etta James, and many more.

In 1969, the Chess brothers sold the label to the GRT Corporation and it eventually served as a subsidiary of Janus Records – our last month’s feature. In 1975, All Platinum Records purchased Chess and had some limited releases of old material that were issued with the help of Leonard Chess’ son Marshall; he had previously run the label as its president in 1969 after it was purchased by GRT.

When All Platinum ran into financial difficulties, the masters were sold to MCA in the mid 1980s. MCA, now Universal Music Corporation, continues to hold the masters and periodically reissues old Chess material.

Not only did Chess record numerous artists out of its location at 2120 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, they also produced recordings for Sam Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service. Phillips’ Sun Records would later become famous for recording Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins.

When Chicago’s Premier Records declared bankruptcy in 1953, Chess purchased the masters and released these songs on the Chess imprint. One of these recordings was by Washboard Sam who was backed by Big Bill Broonzy on guitar. Although not a Chess recording, “Diggin’ my Potatoes” was a 1953 Chess release.

Sam, whose real name was Robert Brown, has previously recorded for the Bluebird and Vocalion labels prior to moving to Premier which would be released on Chess. A later compilation of his material was issued by Folkways. Washboard Sam died of heart disease in 1966.

No comments:

Post a Comment