Cadet Concept Long Play Records
It was only natural that Marshall Chess, oldest son of Leonard Chess, would slip comfortably into his father’s and uncle’s record empire and, in time, work toward creating something new and unique for the enterprise,
Leonard Chess was a straight ahead serious businessman, who although often stubborn and often sticking to a “my way or no way” path, was still often open to new ideas and innovations – with a caveat: They had better pay off sooner rather than later.
Marshall Chess was very comfortable in the world of the Chess brothers having hung around the operation almost since it’s beginning as a young boy. Marshall would become good friends with many of the Chess musicians many who often would come to the Chess household for dinner or special occasions.
Chuck Berry and Marshall were particularly close – Chuck would often stay overnight with the Chess family sharing a bedroom with Marshall.
When it came time for Marshall to officially join the Chess enterprise it would be as an international executive – charged with developing European and Asian markets – particularly Japan. But above and beyond everything Marshall had gained responsibility for at Chess Records, his dream was to start up his own record label.
Toward the end of the 1960’s Marshall conceived a new approach for Chess – more in keeping with the changing times in the music scene. Marshall was familiar with the West Coast scene via his brief time in college in Los Angeles.
And so with his somewhat free hand at Chess and with his father backing further away from the day-to-day operations – turning his attention to radio stations he had acquired, Marshall introduced a new label – working off the established Cadet name – “Cadet Concept”. (Cadet had come about earlier on in the 1960’s when Chess was forced to abandon the name “Argo” when a record concern from Great Britain of the same name decided to start doing business in the U.S.).
Marshall’s first initiative was to form a group called “The Rotary Connection” an amalgamation of musicians which Marshall described as “a concept rather than a group” and thus the label nomenclature.
Leonard was a little less than thrilled with the idea but bit his tongue allowing the project to proceed.
The concept was put together and included several of the regular studio musicians including Phil Upchurch and a cast of six singers recruited by Marshall which included one of Fontella Bass’s backup singers from the Chess “Rescue Me” session – Minnie Riperton.
Things did not start off well with the huge retail conglomerate “Sears” banning the first album from their music racks due to the inclusion of illicit substance images (Minnie passing a joint to another member of the group being one).
Leonard was a bit more than upset but the cover was quickly replaced with a new backside and promotion proceeded.
Although the LP did not include a hit single – the album performed quite well – garnering impressive sales numbers and breathing some sense of relief into Chess where the old standbys were not experiencing the success once enjoyed.
The Status Quo
Marshall’s next move was to tap into his British contacts. He would soon bring a group called “The Status Quo” onto the Cadet Concept label – and in short order the two groups were both paying their share of the Chess rent. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” would be the biggest hit record that Chess records enjoyed in the later 1960’s.
When Leonard Chess died suddenly from a massive heart attack in 1969, Marshall’s dreams of forming his own label came to a screeching halt.
His career and life was thrown into disarray until he regained his confidence after meeting with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger who he had become familiar with early on when the Stones visited the Chess studios — and then later in his Great Britain travels.
Marshall had always believed that he would inherit the bulk of Chess Records but learned from his father that the entity had been sold to General Recorded Tape (GRT). As a consolation, Leonard told Marshall that he would be receiving a million dollars from the sale to start up his own company.
Leonard’s sudden demise was truly tragic for the Chess family and doubly so for Marshall due to Leonard having not completed a will before his death.
Like a Rolling Stone
From this meeting came the new “Rolling Stones Records” enterprise which Marshall would head up after departing GRT – the company that had effectively dismantled the entire company Chess domain. (All the Chess assets were sold or auctioned, operations moved out of town – and in a final sad act, an entire warehouse of recordings were hauled off by demolition workers.
Marshall stayed with Rolling Stones Records for five years.
After many years of working independently in the music industry, Marshall’s long-time dream of establishing his own record label materialized with the creation of “CZYZ” a tribute to the original family name and the release of the album titled “2120” featuring R&B musicians Bill Foster, Rod Gross and Murali Coryell.
2120 was yet another nod to the Michigan Avenue location of Chess Records in it’s heyday. I believe that “2120” was the only release on CZYZ.
Cadet Concept Long Play Discography
Cadet Concept LP 312 – Rotary Connection
Cadet Concept LP 314 – Electric Mud
Cadet Concept LP – 315 – The Status Quo – “Messages From”
Cadet Concept LP 316 – Salloom, Sinclair & The Mother Bear
Cadet Concept LP – Rotary Connection – “Aladdin”
Cadet Concept LP 318 – “Peace
Cadet Concept LP 319 – Howlin’ Wolf – “This Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album – He Doesn’t Like It. He Didn’t Like His Electric Guitar At First Either”
(Actual title of the LP reflecting Wolf’s true opinion)
Cadet Concept LP 320 – Muddy Waters – “After The Rain”
Cadet Concept LP 321 – John Klemmer – “Blowin’ Gold”
Cadet Concept LP 322 – Rotary Connection – “Songs”
Cadet Concept LP 323 – Aesop’s Fables – “In Due Time”
Cadet Concept LP 325 – Joel Vance – “What I Did On My Vacation”
Cadet Concept LP 326 – John Klemmer – “All The Children Cried”
Cadet Concept LP 327 – Salloom – Sinclair
Cadet Concept LP 1 – Earle Doud – “Spirot Agnew Is A Riot!”
Cadet Concept LP 328 – Rotary Connection – “Dinner Music”
Cadet Concept LP 329 – Archie Whitewater”
Cadet Concept LP 330 – John Klemmer – “Eruptions”
Cadet Concept LP 2015 – Graham parker and the Rumour – “Mystery Glue”