OK, let's start off, maybe you could just tell me
how Chess Records began. What Phil and Leonard Chess were doing in Chicago
in the '40s and how that led to the formation of...?
'40s ah, we had a liquor store on 51st and State called Cut Rate Liquors.
And then Uncle Sam wanted my face so he took me away for three and a half
years, and my brother ran the liquor bar. And, ah, he ran into some people
ah, that had a club on 39th and Cottage Grove called the Macombo Lounge, ah,
and they wanted to sell and my brother bought it. He bought it for, anything
he did automatically was for the two of us. Or whatever I did was for the
two of us. So we got,he ran the Macombo Lounge till from ah, oh, '40... '43
to ah, no, ah, cut, I'm wrong.
So again, tell me
how you and your brother were running clubs in Chicago and how that led into
the beginnings of Chess Record.
first club, we called it a tavern was a place called the Cut Rate Liquor
Store on 51st and State. While I was at the Cut Rate I, I went into the
service, ah, three and a half years and my brother sold the club and bought
another club at 708 East 47th Street which was the Blues. It was really the
blues area and, ah, that's where he ran into Muddy, Bill Walter, Sunnyland
Slim, oh, you name them, they were all there. If they were on Maxwell Street
they were there and most of them played on Maxwell Street, if you're
familiar with Chicago. And, ah, when I got out of the service, ah, no, then
my brother sold the club and bought a club on 3905 South Cottage where we
had a trio, trio playing. You know like we had Tom Archer and Side Man and
we had Elijah Kett, we had Gene Amons and then some people came buy and, two
couples and they wanted, wanted to know if he was interested, came in to
record somebody in the club. And they wanted to know if he'd be interested
in becoming a partner. And, ah, at that time I just got out of the service
that was in '46 and, ah, my brother became a partnership but he didn't know
anything about what they were recording. They were recording "Get On The
Ball Paul" and some white and then harmonica, the Harmonicats, not the
Harmonicats, it was ...
Was that on Aristocrat
On Aristocrat records, yeah, these
people owned Aristocrat Records and, ah, my brother bought into that. And
then after a while they, we weren't making any money on it and the club was
doing good. And what we were making in the club we were putting in, into the
record business. So meantime they wanted out. And we bought them out. And,
ah, we had the Aristocrat label and the first release on Aristocrat was, ah,
Andrew Tibbs "I Can feel Like” .. no, "Bo Bo's Dead". Bo Bo wasn't he
governor, senator of Mississippi.
Mount Carmel burned down right after that.
Yeah that was, no, that was in '51 or '50.
Yeah and, ah, ah, I would
work the bar and my brother would take me over like 2 in the morning and,
and we, we never closed, at 4 o'clock the license, you're supposed to close,
we'd close the blinds and then haul the all the hustlers and all the
prostitutes and we'd come in the club and all the jazz guys would come in
and they'd jam. And the three hours that you're supposed to be closed that's
what they were doing. We made some good money at that time because at that
time a dollar for a bottle of beer was a lot of money.