Who actually set the Stones connection up? Do you
I think they called me.
They knew me, you know, I actually Mick Jagger once told me that I, he had
sent to Chess for records and I had sent him records years before. I, I was
very much into the international expansion of Chess. It was like my chance
to prove myself, you know. And I got very excited when the stuff started to
sell in Europe. I, I made all the deals: Germany, France, Italy.
He was the young blood.
What did you think of the Stones' records prior to coming to
We'd never heard them probably.
You know I, I think I had heard a little of them but I never, I was, ah,
they, prior to coming to Chess they had only had a few, you know, that one
album, that first album, ahm, which I think I must have heard a few times
What was your personal reaction when they
came in and you met them, the way they looked, etc.?
Well I, I know my uncle, my father thought they
were very strange, you know, because, first of all the way they looked, the
way they spoke. They weren't used to English people the way they dressed.
Their manager, Andrew Oldem, he was a real character.
I couldn't understand what he was talking
I couldn't even
'cause that brogue, he had such
a high thick accent, I didn't know what he was saying.
I'm the same age as the Stones so I was quite
fascinated, you know, with the whole beginning of the English rock scene the
Yardbirds the Stones.
They were very
friendly, they were very friendly, they were 'cause after a take we'd walk
in the studio and talk to them just to tape, play back, you know.
Did you see it as a form of flattery that all these bands
wanted to be like the Chess bands?
We began to see during that
Builds your ego up a little bit, you
Yeah, we began to see that it was
happening because our sales in Europe were increasing. We were getting mail.
And there were these appreciation societies.
What was the sound that the Stones wanted to get at Chess that they couldn't
get in England?
I think that, this is
what I think from having spent a lot of time in England after that. You know
I think peop, people think that the studio is what gives the sound. Chess
Records had this distinct sound. I think that, that they thought just
recording in the same room might give the same sound. I think what most
people that came there learned was it was the way you played that made the
sound. The room and the mikes and our engineers did have something to do
That was the biggest part really
because you go back and look at Sun Records, everybody flocked to Sun
because they wanted to get the same sound that Sun had. So where do you go?
You go to Chess Studios because you want to get the Chess Sound. And you go
five miles down the line be another studio that's got a sound, they're going
to run over there. It's just ...
the Stones at that time wanted the sound like a Chess artist. They would
have loved to have sounded like Howling Wolf.
Yeah, by being in Chess Studios they thought…
Yeah they thought by being in the studio maybe it
would add that little bit of magic to make it, you know, in their ears sound
that way. I don't think they would have ever thought that the public would
have known it 'cause it was too obscure. The Chess music was too obscure to
white people at that time.
But it worked, the
sound was better at Chess.
remember all of the songs but of course they used our, you know, our
engineer, our techniques. Ron was the engineer.
No, yeah, Ron yeah, he’s dead.
Rooster" they did.
Yeah they did "Red
Rooster" and they did "It's All Over Now" which I thought was great, a great
What made the Stones a great
They're a great band. Now what
makes a great band? The ability when playing together to play like one, to
lock in, you know. The Stones are really and true great band. The one thing
that I, I knew from being raised around Chess was, when a great band, when a
great rhythm section locked together you knew it you know it was like you
became one. It was magic. The Stone are, were just a great band that's,
that's what makes them a great band. Whether with, with no, you know, no
pre-planning when they all play together they sometimes lock into this
magical oneness, you know, which makes a great band, which transcends
describing it. You can't describe it. You can hear it.
Did you see that kind of magic when they came and played
No because we didn't, we
weren't in the control room the whole time. We, we didn't, it's not
something you would see, you know, that's what you see from working with the
band recording them. Only saw that later when I worked with the
Only reason I went there, be honest
with you, is to take my daughter and my granddaughter and my, and my, and my
niece to listen to them 'cause they didn't mean nothing to me. I mean I hate
to put them down that way, you know, I'm not putting them down.
No, that's not a put down.
They just didn't mean nothing to me.
Do you think, in some ways the Stones carried on the
spirit of Chess?
Could you start, etc..
Well I mean the, I think that the Stones understood a certain
sexual energy that was in Chess Records music and amplified that into their
own music and turned it into their own music. To me that was the essence of
Chess that I, I got from the Stones. There was something, there was a
certain kind of Chess music that was sex, sexy. "I'm A Man" you know and
those kind of things. And I think the Stones definitely picked up to that
and built on it and made it into their own sound and took it beyond
Did they do "I Want To Make Love To You"
All those kind of things. That was
all their thing.
People have said about Chicago
sounds that it was maybe the first blues that you could dance to which
became a big thing with white teenagers. Do you think the Stones took some
of that dance element from Chicago music?
Yeah, definitely. I mean I think that they, they, the material
that they picked and what influenced them, definitely was music you could
dance to and it wasn't so much the slow, you know, the slow kind of
What drew you into managing
Someone called me up, I never
managed them actually but I set up and ran their record company, Rolling
Stones Records and what happened was after I left Chess I was in a period of
a few months doing nothing and someone called me and asked me if I'd be
interested in, in going after the Rolling Stones, a guy named Bob Krasnow
who now is the president of Electra records. And I told him, ah, after
thinking about it, no, but I was going to call Mick Jagger anyway. And I
actually just called Mick Jagger up and said, I'm doing nothing now, I'm
looking for something to do and I heard you were looking for something. He
said, oh great man, come over and see me. He said, I can't come to you I've
just been busted for amphetamines at the airport. And two weeks later I went
to England and that's how it began, seven years of my life a seven ride with
the kings of rock and roll.
Thinking in terms
of the Chess spirit, what for you the times when the Stones caught that sexy
driving thing that you were talking about?
Well I worked with them on all, I think seven different records
in the studio and there were just times when, I don't know, it's, you know,
again I, I always say I can't describe it in words, it's music, you can hear
it, you know, you hear, you hear music that just carries you away, you know,
you know that it's special. It happened to Chess, it happened to my uncle,
my father when they heard the right record. It happened to me with the
Rolling Stones. It hasn't happened that often to me but the Stones captured
that many, many times on many of their records. And Chess Records captured
it and it's something you can't describe but when it happens it makes you
stamp your, stomp your foot. And it makes you feel good. And you know he
knows and the Stones had it too. I mean in a way it was a continuation of
the thing that I got from Chess musically without even knowing it.
Do you think the spirit of Chess lives on now in the
I think it lives on more than
ever now the MCA releases of it.
have the Blues Heaven that Willie Tex's wife is starting in the old studio
which is a landmark now. She's put, putting up a museum.
You know blues has integrated, ah, white audiences
worldwide. Man, they're bootleg, bootleg Chess blues tapes from Thailand
now. Little Thai kids are hearing blues from Chicago, you know, something,
blues is all over now. The Chess sound will always live.
The way I can go along with that is, I went to a, to a
session one time for a friend of mine in California, went to the Roxy and
they announced I was in the place. There saying, people coming to me, man, I
want your autograph, I said, I, I felt kind of foolish, what, you know,
autograph. But I couldn't get them away from me. So I, I said, man, let me
go in the dressing room with you 'cause I, I don't want to hang around. You
know these, driving me nuts. Half of them, hey man, you're a real myth man.
Man, many you're, I says, yeah, man, okay. Go. Get away from me, you know.
So I guess like he said, Chess lives on.