Chess Records was an American record label based in Chicago, Illinois. It specialized in blues, R&B, soul, gospel music, early rock and roll, and occasional jazz releases.
Run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, the company produced and released many important singles and albums, which are now regarded as central to the rock music canon. Musician and critic Cub Koda described Chess Records as "America's greatest blues label."
In 1951, the Chess brothers began an association with Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service. One of the most important recordings that Phillips gave to Chess was "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats which topped Billboard magazine's R&B Records chart and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 because of its influence as a rock and roll single. One of the most important artists that came out of Memphis was Howlin' Wolf, who stayed with the label until his death in 1976. Many songs created by Chess artists were later reproduced by many famous Rock n' Roll bands and artists such as "The Beatles", "The Rolling Stones", "The Beach Boys" and "Eric Clapton." Some of the core riffs created by Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and others were the basis of a wide amount of Rock n' Roll.
In 1952, the brothers also started Checker Records as an alternative label for radio play (radio stations would only play a limited number of records for any one imprint). In December 1955, they launched a jazz and pop label called Marterry (a name created from the first names of Leonard and Phil's sons Marshall and Terry). This was quickly renamed Argo Records, but the name was changed again in 1965 to Cadet Records to end confusion with an older British classical music label.