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Marshall Chess (born 13 March 1942, Chicago, Illinois) is the son and nephew of the founders of Chess Records, the Chicago-based independent record label that first recorded an unprecedented list of African-American, blues and early rock and roll artists such as: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, Rufus Thomas, Memphis Minnie, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Etta James and Buddy Guy, among others.
Leonard Chess and his brother Phil were two American immigrants from the Jewish community in Motal, Poland who in 1947 had purchased part of an independent record label called Aristocrat Records. Within a few years the label was renamed after the family's Americanized surname 'Chess' and quickly produced a list of American blues artists that would come to be regarded as the greatest collection of the genre in recorded history.
Marshall learned every aspect of the record business while working for sixteen years with the founders of Chess Records; his father Leonard and his uncle Phil doing everything from pressing records and loading trucks to producing over 100 Chess Records projects and eventually heading up the label as President after the GRT acquisition in 1969. In the late 1960s Marshall also ran his own record label Cadet Concept, a division of Chess Records. He created and produced the Rotary Connection, which became the springboard for Minnie Riperton’s career. He signed John Klemmer and created a new format which was heralded as the first jazz-fusion album, “Blowin’ Gold.” He signed the underground black rock legends Black Merda. His Cadet Concept also imported and released the only American hit, Pictures of Matchstick Men, by the British rock group Status Quo. He also created and produced the controversial psychedelicized blues albums Electric Mud, by Muddy Waters; and, The Howlin' Wolf Album by Howlin' Wolf. He restored his reputation by producing the jam album Fathers & Sons with Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Otis Spann, Paul Butterfield, Duck Dunn, Sam Lay, and Buddy Miles in 1969.
Departing from Chess Records in 1970 after the death of his father, Marshall was hired as the founding president of Rolling Stones Records, a record label controlled by the English rock group. Marshall Chess had had known the band since the 1960s, when they had used Chess studios in Chicago to record songs while touring the United States. He was an active executive manager, touring with the band, and being involved with record production as well as outside business interests. He helped create the Rolling Stones tongue and lip logo and was involved as executive producer on seven Rolling Stones albums during the 1970s. In 1977, Chess resigned from Rolling Stones Records because he felt that too much drugs, sex, and rock n roll was undermining his health and his ability to work in the company. He was replaced with Earl McGrath on the advice of Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegün, the Stones newly signed record distribution partner.
As well as music, Chess produced three films in the 1960s and 1970s: The Legend of Bo Diddley, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, and the unreleased concert tour documentary Cocksucker Blues by Robert Frank.
During the 1980s and 1990s Marshall produced projects for both Sire Records and Island Records and for Howdy Doody. He also produced many rap records at the beginning of the rap generation. He worked with rap star KRS-One, developing an audio comic book project, Break The Chain, for Marvel Comics.
In 1984, Marshall Chess became a partner in the famous blues and rock publishing company ARC Music, which he began actively heading in 1992. In 2003, Chess was featured in the film Godfathers and Sons directed by Marc Levin, for the PBS series The Blues, produced by Martin Scorsese. In the film, Marshall produces a hip hop version of the classic Chess track “Mannish Boy” featuring rappers Chuck D and Common recording with original members of the Electric Mud band.
In 1999 Chess founded the Czyz Records record label, with his cousin Kevin. On 21 September 1999 the first record released on Czyz Records was the Murali Coryell album 2120, named after Chess' old Chicago address at 2120 South Michigan. Czyz (pronounded "Chez" or "Chaz") was the original Polish surname of Leonard and Phil Chess when they arrived in America from Poland.
In the year 2000, Marshall, his son Jamar Chess and Juan Carlos Barguil founded Sunflower Entertainment, a specialty music publishing and licensing house that focuses on independent Latin music and iconic American songs.
Marshall has been on Sirius Satellite Radio's Blues Channel since 2007 hosting the Chess Records Hour, a three times a week show featuring the music and history of Chess Records. Chess was executive music producer on two movies which dramatise the history of Chess Records: Cadillac Records (2008), and Who Do You Love?, (2008) directed by Jerry Zaks.
In 2012, Marshall co-founded Revolution Songs, a music publishing and sync licensing company.