Roll Over Beethoven – The Chess Records Saga Chicago’s Chess Records was one of the greatest labels of the post-war era, ranking alongside other mighty independents like Atlantic, Stax and Sun. From 1950 till its demise at the end of the 60s, Chess released a myriad of electric blues, rock ‘n’ roll and soul classics that helped change the landscape of black and white popular music.
Chess was the label that gave the world such sonic adventurers as Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf and Etta James. In this documentary to mark the label’s 60th anniversary, the likes of Jimmy Page, Mick Hucknall, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Paul Jones and Little Steven, as well as those attached to the label such as founder’s son Marshall Chess, pay tribute to its extraordinary music and influence.
The film reveals how two Polish immigrants, Leonard and Phil Chess, forged friendships with black musicians in late 1940s Chicago, shrewdly building a speciality blues label into a huge independent worth millions by the end of the 1960s. Full of vivid period detail, it places the Chess story within a wider social and historical context – as well as being about some of the greatest music ever recorded, it is, inevitably, about race in America during these tumultuous times. (BBC 4)