top of page

Chess Records (1957–65)

2120 S Michigan Ave.

Chess Records was Chicago’s premier record company with a stellar array of blues (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf), jazz (Ramsey Lewis, Ahmad Jamal), soul (Jackie Ross, The Dells) and foundational rock ’n’ roll (Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry). Leonard and Phil Chess’ success— especially selling those blues and rock records—from the late 1940s and into the mid 1950s allowed them to purchase this building in 1957. This location that Chess became a self-contained operation with an in-house recording studio as well as administrative and distribution offices. Because everything could be done within these walls, engineers, songwriters and musicians could take the time to work out their ideas without having to pay for expensive rented studio time. The building’s mystique reached across the Atlantic Ocean and The Rolling Stones titled an instrumental track in tribute to this address where they recorded in 1964. With Chess’ success, the company moved its operations to a larger building nearby on E. 21st Street in 1966 where it remained until the mid 1970s.

– A.C. 

Caption: Former location of Chess Records

bottom of page