Open main menu

Checker Records is an inactive record label that was started in 1952 as a subsidiary of Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois. The label was founded by the Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, who ran the label until they sold it to General Recorded Tape (GRT) in 1969, shortly before Leonard's death.

Checker Records
Checker records.jpg
Founded1952 (1952)
FounderLeonard Chess
Phil Chess
Rhythm and blues
Rock and roll
Country of originUnited States
LocationChicago, Illinois

The label released recordings by mostly African American artists and groups. Checker's releases cover a wide range of genres including blues (Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson II), rhythm and blues (Sax Mallard, Jimmy McCracklin), doo-wop (The Flamingos, The Moonglows), gospel (Aretha Franklin, Five Blind Boys of Mississippi), rock and roll (Bo Diddley, Dale Hawkins), and soul (Gene Chandler).

The label was discontinued in 1971 following GRT's consolidation of the Chess catalogs.[1] As with Cadet and Chess, the label's catalog is now owned by Universal Music Group[2] and releases from the Checker catalog are released by Geffen Records and Chess.



Due to the recent expansion of Chess Records, as well as to achieve greater airplay for singles, the Chess brothers opened up a subsidiary label named Checker. The first 45/78 rpm single released by the label was "Slow Caboose" b/w "Darling, Let's Give Love a Chance" by Sax Mallard and his Orchestra, which was released as Checker 750 in April 1952.[3]

The label's most popular artist, in the label's early years, was Little Walter, who had ten songs released by Checker that made the Top Ten of Billboard magazine's Top Rhythm & Blues Records charts. Among those ten was "Juke" which topped the charts[4] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.[5]

Checker released several singles by well-established blues artists such as Elmore James, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (credited as Perry Lee Crudup), and Memphis Minnie, none of which sold well.[3][6] One well-established blues artist that did manage to make a hit on Checker was Sonny Boy Williamson II, who charted with "Don't Start Me Talkin'" (#3) in 1955, "Keep It to Yourself" (#14) in 1956, and "Help Me" (#24) in 1963.[4]

On March 2, 1955, the Chess brothers recorded their first rock and roll artist, Bo Diddley. From this session came Bo's self-titled debut single on Checker,[6] which topped the R&B charts[4] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. Another one of Bo Diddley's Checker singles, "Who Do You Love?", was inducted in 2010.[5] In 1957, Checker cracked into the rockabilly market with Dale Hawkins, who had a crossover hit with "Susie Q", although he could not repeat the single's success.

In 1958, Checker released its first 12" 33⅓ rpm LP record, the Best of Little Walter, which was released as Checker LP-1428.[7]

Label Variations (78 and 45 rpm)

  • 1952-1957

Spider web background on upper label, silver lettering with name Checker Record Co. spelled out in script letters. First 1952 issues were red, later 1952 through 1957 were maroon, silver letters on both types. Silver lettering also on title/artist.

  • 1958-1965

Silver vertical letters spelling Checker name on left side, with a line running vertically by the name and running to about 4 o'clock along bottom of label. Silver lettering on title/artist.

  • 1963-1966

Light blue label with Checker name spelled across the top in red and black checkers, black lettering.

  • 1966-1971

Blue on upper half of label with light blue or white lower half,Checker name spelled across top of label in white letters with red on upper half of letters. Black lettering on title/artist.

List of Checker Records artistsEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ David Edwards; Mike Callahan; Randy Watts. "GRT Consolidated Chess/Cadet Album Discography (1971-1975)". Both Sides Now Publications. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  2. ^ Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll (2nd ed.). New York City, New York: Da Capo Press. p. 79. ISBN 0-306-80683-5.
  3. ^ a b George R. White; Robert L. Campbell; Tom Kelly. "The Chess Label Part I (1950–1952)". Robert Campbell. Clemson, South Carolina: Clemson University. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Whiburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  5. ^ a b "Grammy Hall of Fame". Grammy Awards. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on January 22, 2011. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  6. ^ a b George R. White; Robert L. Campbell; Tom Kelly. "The Chess Label Part II (1953–1955)". Robert Campbell. Clemson, South Carolina: Clemson University. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  7. ^ Past Hall of Fame Inductees Archived 2012-07-17 at the Wayback Machine. Blues Foundation. Go under 1991 Hall of Fame Inductees and click on The Best of Little Walter--Little Walter (Checker, 1958) to view the album review.