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Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Rise of the Blues Paperback – 1 Apr 2001
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Paperback, 1 Apr 2001
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'An in-depth, fact-and-story-rich tour through an important moment in American popular culture' -- New York Times Book Review
Occasionally the course of musical history is changed not by a performer or a band, but by a record label. It was Sun Records that brought us rock'n'roll; Blue Note is forever identified with jazz; Motown even gave its name to a brand of soulful pop. And where the blues is concerned, one Chicago label was responsible for bringing all the great musicians to the world's attention: Chess. The roll-call of artists that Chess discovered is impressive: Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson...The list of classic songs is even longer: 'No Particular Place to Go'; 'I've Got My Mojo Working'; 'I'd Rather Go Blind'; 'Smokestack Lightning'; 'Hoochie Coochie Man'; 'Promised Land'; 'Roadrunner'. No wonder that the young Rolling Stones, touring America, wanted to visit and record at the shrine itself; Chess's ramshackle Chicago studios. Now Nadine Cohodas has written the first full-length, comprehensive account of this remarkable cultural phenomenon, and a colourful story it is, too.For Chess, whose achievement was to take the folk music of black Americans, hitherto ghettoised and dismissed as 'race records', and electrify and urbanise it for a universal audience, was set up and run by two Polish immigrants. Moreover, Leonard and Phil, the two Chess brothers, had no musical training, and little appreciation - they came to record production through running a liquor store, a rackety nightclub and then a radio station. They had a frequently fractious relationship with some of their biggest acts, and posterity has since questioned the fairness and financial propriety with which they treated their performers - a casual gift of a new Cadillac and a few smart suits, it seems, could buy off years of underpaid royalties. But with plenty of chutzpah and a hard-nosed business acumen, they made people like Muddy Waters famous the world over. Nowadays, hardly a month goes by without a famous Chess song like 'I'm a Man' or 'Smokestack Lightning' cropping up on the soundtrack to a car or whisky commercial. It's not an overstatement to say that - from the Stones to Led Zeppelin to Primal Scream - without Chess, there would be no rock music as we now know it. See all Product description
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