Lecture 1:   The Basics - Brothers Czyz: From Shtetl to Ghetto     

    They came from Motele, a shtetl (Jewish community) in Poland.
   
     [Reference: Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Broters and the Legendary Chess Records by Nadine Cohodas ISBN-10: 177152006X]    
         
         
         
    Eventually, they took more American sounding names. Lejzor Czyz became "Leonard Chess" and his younger brother, Fiszel, became "Phil Chess".

Their father, Joseph (changed from "Yasef"), had a junk business, starting with a rented horse and cart, expanding to a scrap yard and its own building. The brothers worked in the junk business after high school. Restless young Leonard went into business for himself as owner of "Cut-Rate Liquors." He moved on to a bigger place called "708 Liquor Store". Then came the "Macomba Lounge," (c. 1946) a bar in the black neighborhood. The Macomba featured live music with a jazz oriented house band, usually a trio, sax, piano and drums.

Leonard, always looking to expand, set out to record one of the artists who played the Macomba and ended up buying into a small, Chicago-based record company, Aristocrat Records. Aristocrat was the project of a wealthy Jewish couple, Charles and Evylyn Aron. Leonard Chess became their partner. Aristocrat was a race record company, i.e. they marketed their recordings to black audiences. It was as a co-owner of the record company that Leonard met and heard a Mississippi musician named McKinley Morganfield, known musically as "Muddy Waters." The collaboration between Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters would change the musical landscape of American culture.

   
     
Muddy Waters in Mississippi  at the time of the Library of Congress field recordings (1941-42)
   
         
     I Be's Troubled Recorded by Alan Lomax on location in the Mississippi Delta.    
    Can't Be Satisfied Aristocrat Records Debut of the Muddy Waters Band.       
It was a minor hit, encouraging Leonard Chess to buy out his remaining partners
 and change Aristocrat Records to Chess Records.
   
         
    Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters together forged a new style of blues music, a new format, called "small combo Chicago blues," consisting of electric guitar, amplified harmonica, electric bass and drums, and optionally piano, plus a new way to record amplified instruments.    
         
    Just To Be With You    
         
     
Muddy Waters, c. 1970,
Photo by Charles Sawyer, © Charles Sawyer, 1970, 2019
   
         
     In time the Chess brothers, plus, eventually, Leonard's son Marshal, built a commercial empire with their own recording studio and their own record pressing plant, plus, they launched a radio station, WVON "Voice of the Negro", in Chicago.     
         
         
         
     Here's a list of the Chess artists who forged the style we call Urban Blues:    
     
Birth Name/Wikipedia page
a.k.a.
You Tube Video
McKinley Morganfield Muddy Waters Got My Mojo Workin'
Chester Burnett The Howlin' Wolf Howlin' Wolf on Shindig with the Rolling Stones
Alex Ford a.k.a. Rice Miller
a.k.a. Little Boy Blue
a.k.a. Sonny Boy Williamson II
Live in Sweden
Bring It On Home
Jamesetta Hawkins, Etta James At Last
Marion Walter Jacobs Little Walter Jacobs Mean Old World /  Juke
James Milton Campbell Little Milton Grits Ain't Groceries
Jay Arthur Lane, Jimmy Rogers Walkin' By Myself
Ramsey Emanuel Lewis, Jr. Ramsey Lewis The In Crowd
Fredrick Russell Jones Ahmad Jamal, jazz great (piano) Jazz Session 1971
Elias Otha Bates, a.k.a. Ellas McDanial
a.k.a. Bo Diddley
You Can't Judge a Book By The Cover
Charles Edward Anderson Berry Chuck Berry Promised Land

Leonard Chess recorded a Little Walter instrumental, a song Muddy Waters band used as an opener, calling it Juke. It went to the top of the R&B nationwide charts.

See also Cadillac Records [The story of the Chess Brother -- Phil refused permission for the film makers to portray him.]