The Rolling Stones have long been regarded as the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, but did you know that their original goal was to introduce people to blues music, especially the blues music coming out Chess Records in Chicago. They were enamored of the music by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and other blues artists. In fact, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger’s original name for their bands (before all the members were in place) was The Blue Boys. That was soon changed when the band decided to rename themselves after a Muddy Waters song entitle “Rollin’ Stone”.
While Muddy, Willie and the Wolf remained their idols, they were equally taken by the emerging rock ‘n’ roll music of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, also a Chess artist. In fact, the Rolling Stone’s first single was a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On”. That was released in 1963.
One year later, the band, then virtually unknown in the U.S. packed their bags and crossed the pond in order to record at the legendary Chess Record studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue, also known as Record Row*.
Some of you true Stones fans may recognize that address, 2120 South Michigan as the title of an instrumental song the Rolling Stones recorded in order to commemorate their time at the famous studio. It was during the Rolling Stones two days sessions at Chess that they finally met their idol, Muddy Waters, which was the start of a lifelong friendship between the band and the great bluesman. While at 2120 the Rolling Stones also recorded what would become their first number one hit in their homeland, a little ditty called, “It’s All Over Now.”
By the way, the Chess studio still stands at 2120 South Michigan right at Michigan Avenue at 21st Street and is now the home of the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation. They offer daily tours of the studio that launched the careers of so many greats and changed the sound of music forever. It is not to be missed. And in the summer months they offer free outdoor concerts every Thursday night.
So while the Rolling Stones may be known as the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, they very well could be the world’s greatest blues band too.
* Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about the magic of Record Row. You won’t believe the mega hits that came out of this stretch of Michigan Avenue. I could have done a book just on that alone!
As I was doing research for WINDY CITY BLUES I discovered that almost all the blues artists had blues names. For example McKinley Morganfield was Muddy Waters. Chester Arthur Burnett was Howlin’ Wolf, Marion Walter Jacobs became Little Walter, Ellas McDaniel was Bo Diddley. I know that Muddy got his name from his grandmother because as a child he was prone to playing in the mud. Howlin’ Wolf also got his name as a child after his grandfather told him scary stories about wolves howling at the moon.
While we were down South doing research for my book, we drove the Blues Highway and came across a Blues Name Generator. The blues greats didn’t need a chart to create their stage names, but we did. So from that point on my partner in crime was Boney Bones Dupree and I was Skinny Bad Boy Jefferson.
I’m in the middle of my final edits so I’m going to keep this post brief and get back in the Book Bunker. But in the meantime, have some fun with this Blues Name Generator and see what you come up with!
(On some synch’s the chart might not show up so please click on over to my website www.reneerosen.com–Thanks)
Greetings from the Book Bunker. I’m just taking a break from editing to share the cover for my new novel, WINDY CITY BLUES, based on the true story of Chess Records and the birth of the Chicago Blues.
Heading back into the Book Bunker but would love to know what you think. If I hear from you, I may even start blogging about all the behind-the-scenes stories that went into researching this book! Thanks!!!
About Windy City Blues
The bestselling author of White Collar Girl and What the Lady Wants explores one woman’s journey of self-discovery set against the backdrop of a musical and social revolution.
In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi Delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers. Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago Blues, the soundtrack for a transformative era in American History.
But, for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked…
Leeba doesn’t exactly fit in, but her passion for music and her talented piano playing captures the attention of her neighbor, Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company. What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Etta James. But she also finds love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree.
With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and shunned by Leeba’s Orthodox Jewish family, Leeba and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and they discover that, in times of struggle, music can bring people together.