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How the blues brothers behind Chess Records made all the right moves

Music test

Match the words with their definitions

  1. buzz
A to put in
  1. to nick
B all the songs a performer knows and can perform
  1. busker
C to steal
  1. repertoire
D fame
  1. to toss
E a person who entertains in a public place for donations
  1. stardom
F excitement


Choose the best titles for comments 1- 8 in the text below.

A Keep an eye on your earnings.

B Look presentable.

Ń Entertainment is the name of the game.

D The key to success is playing the right tunes.

E Make sure you're not breaking the law.

F Use your business sense.

G Only do it if you enjoy it.

H Choose where you perform carefully.


Buskers’ top tips:


A good pitch is the secret of success. But competition can be fierce, and some performers can hassle you if you try to muscle in on their pitch. The best place is outside restaurants where you have a captive audience, but other good spots include open-air markets and busy shopping streets. But avoid obstructing people so that they have to go out of their way to avoid you. That annoys people and is counter-productive in terms of earning money.


People are less inclined to part with their hard-earned cash if you look as if you've been sleeping rough for the last month.


In some places you need a permit to busk, and if you're caught without one you may be moved on, or even end up in jail in some countries.


You'll need to look out for people who try to nick coins instead of putting them in. But having said that, people can be incredibly generous too. Yes, some people will chuck in the odd foreign coin, but you get schoolchildren handing you their pocket money, and I've even had homeless people tossing in a quid when they go by. It's really heart­warming.


Some days you might get a lukewarm response, other days you'll get completely ignored, insulted, laughed at or even sworn at. That's just par for the course, and you shouldn't let it get you down. But nothing can beat the buzz you get when you're playing at the top of your performance and the audience is with you. That's just magic. It makes it all worthwhile. 6____________

It's more fun to vary your repertoire but what tend to get the audience going are the old favourites. You need to be prepared to take requests too. The audience love it if you play 'their song' and it tends to up the contributions as well.


You don't have to be a world-class performer to be a busker, but what you lack in talent you can make up for in originality. People respond to something that's novel. Try to grab the audience's attention with something that is unusual or has a dash of creativity.


You can get decent takings if you set your mind to it. Having CDs on sale gives you some kudos, and sometimes you need to be proactive if business is slow, passing the hat round instead of waiting for people to donate. But, whatever you do, don't give up the day job. Some days you can make over $100, but other days it can be a fraction of that. Busking is fraught with uncertainty and insecurity.

Put the parts of the text in the right logical order

How the blues brothers behind Chess Records made all the right moves

They have got blues for you: Leonard, Phil and Marshall Chess Photograph: Chess Family

Frank Zappa once said that the best years of rock were when records were produced by "cigar-chomping old guys who looked at the product that came and said, 'I don't know. Who knows what it is? Record it, stick it out. If it sells, all right.'"

A When people talk about the "Chess sound", though, they are not thinking of rockabilly or doo-wop, or even of the brilliant soul records the label produced in the 1960s with Etta James, Fontella Bass and Little Milton. They are thinking of the stripped-down blues discs that, despite changing fashions, always remained among the label's mainstays.
B Waters was also trying to reach a broader audience, adding a drummer and harmonica player to his live shows to create a tight, tough band. He was frustrated when Chess refused to mess with a winning formula and insisted that he keep making stark guitar-and-bass records like Rollin Stone, a one-chord chant that was archaic even by the standards of rural Mississippi. Neither of them could have imagined that a dozen years later five lads in London would like that record enough to name a band after it.
C They were also lucky, and unusually loyal to their artists. That loyalty did not prevent them from playing some tricky games with publishing and royalty payments, but it meant that down-home bluesmen like Waters and Howlin' Wolf continued to make records long after other indie labels had switched to a trendy teen style called rock'n'roll.
D There were some startling one-offs as well: In 1951, a teenage Ike Turner recorded a romping boogie-woogie called Rocket 88 at Sun Studios in Memphis, soon to be the birthplace of rockabilly – but Sam Phillips had not yet started the record label that would spawn Elvis Presley, so the disc appeared on Chess. When Presley hit, Chess got its own white rock'n'rollers, Dale Hawkins and Bobby Charles. Many of the label's biggest hits in this period came from doo-wop groups.
E Leonard and Phil Chess were prototypical cigar-chomping, old-fashioned record men who took a chance on music they didn't understand. Jewish immigrants from Poland, they got into the record business more or less by chance: Leonard bought a liquor store in an African American neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago, and did well enough that he opened a small nightclub called the Macomba Lounge. It was a rough ghetto bar, patronised by prostitutes and drug dealers, but from the start it was known for having good music. In the late-1940s, that meant it had jazz groups playing bebop, pop tunes, and mellow blues ballads. That was what the better-paying black patrons preferred to hear, and when Leonard got involved with a small local label, Aristocrat Records, that was what he intended to record.
F That is the paradox of the Chess story. The brothers were not musical visionaries; they were small-time "indie" record men making a quick buck from the poorest, least respected people in America. But their cheaply recorded, bread-and-butter discs of local street musicians and bar bands still sound as fresh today as they did 60 years ago. By failing to be timely, they succeeded in being timeless.
G Leonard Chess and Waters had a particularly close relationship, and it served both of them well. When Waters finally persuaded Chess to record his full band, he incidentally brought the label its biggest blues hit-maker: Little Walter was barely out of his teens, and reshaped the course of blues harmonica by amplifying his instrument and playing it like a jazz saxophone. Then, in 1955, Waters introduced Chess to an unknown songwriter from St Louis named Chuck Berry. In retrospect, the list of artists who were associated with Chess in that first decade forms a pantheon of electric blues and blues-influenced rock'n'roll: Waters, Wolf, Walter, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Berry, Bo Diddley.
H It was only after the first few records went nowhere that he took a chance on another kind of musician, a Mississippi singer who was too raw and country-sounding to have pleased the crowds at the Macomba. In fact, when Leonard Chess first heard Muddy Waters sing I Can't Be Satisfied, in a Delta growl backed with a whining electric slide guitar, he couldn't imagine it pleasing anyone. "What's he saying?" he asked. "Who's going to buy that?" Fortunately, his partner in Aristocrat, Evelyn Arons, suggested that some of the black southerners who had moved north in search of jobs might enjoy the sounds of home. So Chess pressed 3,000 singles, they sold out in a day, and six decades later Waters's recording is remembered as the first masterpiece of electric Chicago blues.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 994

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