Chess Records Studio/Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation, Inc.

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Chess Records, the small company begun by young South Side entrepreneurial brothers Phil and Leonard Chess, wound up with a business niche almost as influential and successful as Sun Records in Memphis. In 1947, the Chess brothers started recording many of the talented blues players who had migrated from the Mississippi Delta region to the South Side. Their singles, which the music industry initially designated "race records," wound up as key building blocks for rock 'n' roll. Songs such as Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man," Howlin' Wolf's "Moanin' After Midnight" and Koko Taylor's "Wang Dang Doodle" still ring with angst and power after 30 or 40 years. Willie Dixon, one of Chicago's most revered blues figures, was the major talent behind the talent, playing bass, producing and often writing for the singers who regularly came through. Many of the hits came out of the Chess Records studio, where Dixon led the house band, at 2120 S. Michigan Ave. Dixon died in 1992, and now, his widow, Marie, and daughter, Shirli, run his nonprofit Blues Heaven Foundation Inc. The foundation renovated the studio, and it re-opened in September 1997 with a dedication ceremony attended by musicians and public officials. On nice days you can almost always find tourists stopping by the neighborhood to peer into the windows and take pictures.