of errors but never mind that this film is great!”
Chronologically barmy it has Muddy Waters coming to England in 1967 for the first time!
Waters was here in
England in April 1958 with
Leonard Chess and here is a
picture of him in Manchester in 1964
doesn’t mention Bo Diddley as well as any of the massive
collection of artists who recorded at the Chess Studios
South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
It concentrates on Leonard Chess, no
mention of Phil or Marshal and Leonard is turned from a
short bald fat man into a tall thin brown eyed handsome
man played by
The film was written and directed by one of Hollywood’s best looking directors:
She concentrates on a few central
themes, Muddy Waters relationship with Leonard Chess who
rewards his artists mostly by buying them a Cadillac and
pays them occasionally. It shows the wayward career of
Little Walter, it gives a hint of the powerful ‘presence
of Howlin’ Wolf’s vocal capacity by actor
Eamonn Walker and the
‘tore up’ early life of Etta James played by
Beyoncé Knowles, who
does a fine job with Etta’s songs, but cannot really be
compared to Etta’s amazing voice and singing style.
Chuck berry makes an appearance and gives a hint of how
he was different in style from the others featured in
the film which appears to be intermittently narrated by
a Willie Dixon characterisation. The Stones make a short
appearance making their trip to the ‘Mecca’ of 2120 telling
Muddy that his record ‘Rollin’ Stone’ inspired them and
that they named their group after it. We learn nothing
of the record that started of Rock and Roll: Rocket 88
by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston Chess1458 1951 made by
Sam Phillips and sent to Chess for distribution – it
became a hit and a good money spinner for the Chess
brothers, but the film only shows a Leonard starting the
company with Muddys ‘I Cant Be Satisfied’. 1958, Chess
was almost into its second decade by that time.
In England in 63’ and 64’ there was a
huge fascination with the Blues and lots of touring
Blues artists appeared in many English cities including
Manchester’s Free trade Hall and on Manchester’s Granada
Television. Several of the clubs in the city where by
this time predominantly featuring Blues and the most
Bluesy of them all was The Twisted Wheel. Chess made its
mark at this club, with lots of great Chess Blues
artists being released on the PYE International R&B
Label just before Chess emerged in their own right.
Chess Soul There is no mention of it.
However apart from all these anomalies
the film is well worth seeing, it has many great
Blue Note Club
For the real Chess Story see ‘Spinning
Blues Into Gold’ by Nadine Cohodas and: The Story Of
Chess Records by John Collis.