Chance Records

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Chance Records
FounderArt Sheridan
StatusInactive since 1954
GenreBlues, jazz, doo-wop, gospel
Country of originUnited States
LocationChicago, Illinois

Chance Records was a Chicago-based label founded in 1950 by Art Sheridan. It specialized in blues, jazz, doo-wop, and gospel.

Among the acts who recorded for Chance were The Flamingos, The Moonglows, Homesick James, J. B. Hutto, Brother John Sellers, and Schoolboy Porter. In addition, Chance released three singles by John Lee Hooker[1] and made a coordinated issue of the first singles by Jimmy Reed and The Spaniels with the brand-new and still tiny Vee-Jay Records.

The company closed down at the end of 1954. Sheridan became one of the financial backers of Vee-Jay.


Chance Records opened for business in September 1950. Initially the company was housed at Sheridan's American Record Distributors, 2011 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.[2] Among the first artists to record for the company were the Al Sims Trio, an uptown blues group, and a combo led by tenor saxophonist John "Schoolboy" Porter, who had developed a vigorous R&B style in the Cootie Williams band. Porter's rendition of "Tennessee Waltz," a much-covered hit in 1950, sold well enough that Sheridan's pressing plant, Armour Plastics, couldn't meet the demand and many copies were pressed by RCA Victor. Porter would be a steady contributor until he left Chicago in 1952.[3]

In 1951, however, the company ran into big trouble with the American Federation of Musicians on account of employing non-Union personnel on one of Schoolboy Porter's sessions. The company actually lost its license to record with Union musicians for one year,[4] although Sheridan was able to work in a few sessions by gospel groups, which in those days were almost entirely non-Union. He would remain persona non grata with Musicians Union Local 208 for many years.

While restricted from making new recordings, Sheridan astutely picked up items for release from many small labels: the debut session by jazz pianist John Young, Little Walter's very first session, a long out-of-print single by Sunnyland Slim,[4] and three John Lee Hooker 78s, all released under the low-effort pseudonym John L. Booker.[5]

Chance quickly recovered when the ban ended in May 1952, and Sheridan moved both the record company and his distribution operation to 1151 East 47th Street. Added to the roster were blues singer Brother John Sellers, jazz trumpeter King Kolax, down-home blues guitarist Homesick James,[6] and flamboyant blues shouter Jo Jo Adams. In the fall, bassist Al Smith took over as leader of a house band that featured tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, guitarist Lefty Bates, and drummer Vernel Fournier; among the first singers they backed was Bobby Prince.

Chance hit its peak in 1953. A collaboration with Joe Brown's JOB Records brought a new release by Homesick James, including his signature number "Homesick"[7] a release by Arthur "Big Boy" Spires,[8] and further tracks by Sunnyland Slim and Johnny Shines that were not released till later. The company's blues roster grew further to include Lazy Bill Lucas[9] and Willie Nix.[10] Singer/guitarist Rudy Greene also recorded for Chance.[11]

Sheridan made a significant investment in doo-wop, signing two of the two top groups of the period, The Flamingos and The Moonglows.[2] The established R&B combo led by Tommy Dean made a session, as did the jazz groups of pianist Jimmy Binkley and trumpeter Conte Candoli. In the summer, Sheridan opened a new subsidiary called Sabre at 1225 East 47th Street to handle some of his expanding catalog.[11] Two doo-wop groups that Sheridan signed, the Five Echoes, and the Five Blue Notes, recorded exclusively for the new subsidiary.[2]

In June 1953, Sheridan lent a hand to an emerging outfit from Gary, Indiana called Vee-Jay, which needed marketing and distribution help on its first releases by bluesman Jimmy Reed and the vocal group The Spaniels. Each was given a parallel release on Chance.[12]

In 1954, the company recorded The Moonglows,[13] The Flamingos, along with a new vocal group called the Five Chances. It picked up what was probably its highest-profile gospel group, the Famous Boyer Brothers. A single by blues shouter Freddie Hall came from the tiny Ebony label, run by J. Mayo Williams. A major new blues signing was J. B. Hutto, who made his recording debut for Chance.[14]

However, in June 1954, Al Smith and his corps of studio musicians moved to Vee-Jay. Sabre Records made its last release in August. Sheridan wound Chance Records down in December 1954, becoming a behind-the-scenes investor in the newer company. Ewart Abner, who had been Sheridan's right-hand man at Chance, went to work for Vee-Jay in early 1955.[12]


On its main 1100 series, Chance issues ran almost consecutively from 1100 to 1165, for a total of 63 releases. A 5000 series that Sheridan established for gospel records ran from 5000 to 5009, for 10 releases. In addition, there was a 3000 series for pop releases, which finished at 3021; 21 have been accounted for, An abortive effort to start a subsidiary in 1952 led to a single release on Meteor 100 (not to be confused with the Bihari brothers' Meteor label).[3]


Quite a few Chance and Sabre artists, ranging from the Famous Boyer Brothers to Tommy Dean to King Kolax to the Five Echoes, resurfaced at Vee-Jay. Rock and roll historian Charlie Gillett noted that Chance "might have done well with rock 'n' roll, given its roster," but the company closed too soon.[15] The Flamingos went to Parrot and then to Checker and The Moonglows to Chess.


Catalog # Artist A-side B-side
1100 Arnold Jones "Some Time" "Yesterdays"
1101 John "Schoolboy" Porter "I'll Never Smile Again" "Schoolboy's Boogie"
1102 Al Sims Trio, Sam Dawson Vocal "Moody Woman" "I Wonder Baby"
1103 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Tennessee Waltz Part I" "Part II"
1104 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Nevertheless" "Walk Heavy"
1105 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Kayron" "Deep Purple"
1106 Clyde Wright "Whispering Grass" "Hear My Call"
1107 Wally Hayes Combo "The Flame" "Night Beat"
1107 The Chanceteers "The Flame" "Night Beat"
1108 John Lee Booker (sic) "Talkin' Boogie" "Miss Lorraine"
1109 Henry Green "Storm thru Mississippi" "Strange Things"
1110 John Lee Booker (sic) "I Love to Boogie" "Graveyard Blues"
1111 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Top Hat" "Stairway to the Stars"
1112 Clyde Wright "I May Be Down" "I'm Nobody's Trick"
1114 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Soft Shoulders" "Rollin' Along"
1115 Delta Joe (sic) ""4 O'Clock Blues"" "I Cried"
1116 Little Walter J. "That's Alright" "Just Keep Loving Her"
1117 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Sentimental Journey" "Fire Dome"
1119 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Break Thru" "Junco Partner"
1120 Johnny Sellers "Josie Jones" "Rock Me in the Cradle"
1121 James Williamson "Lonesome Ole Train" "Farmers Blues"
1122 John L Booker (sic) "609 Boogie" "Road Trouble"
1123 Johnny Sellers "Blues This Ain't No Place for You" "Mighty Lonesome"
1124 Al Smith "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" "Slow Mood"
1125 Jack Ross "Close to You" "Lonely Heart"
1126 Four Shades of Rhythm "Yesterdays" "So There"
1127 Dr. Jojo Adams "Didn't I Tell You" "I've Got a Crazy Baby"
1128 Bobby Prince "Tell Me Why, Why, Why" "I Want to Hold You"
1129 Skippy Brown "So Many Days" "Tale of Woe"
1130 Lou Blackwell "How Blue the Night" "I'm Blue without You"
1131 James Williamson "Homesick" "The Woman I Love"
1132 John "Schoolboy" Porter "Small Squall" "Lonely Wail"
1133 The Flamingos "If I Can't Have You" "Someday, Someway"
1134 Jimmy Binkley "Hey, Hey, Sugar Ray" "Midnite Wail"
1135 Jimmy Binkley "Brand New Rockin' Chair" "Finance Man"
1136 Barrel House Blott "Brand New Man" "Chicks Going Crazy"
1137 Arthur "Big Boy" Spires "Which One Do I Love" "About to Lose My Mind"
1138 Johnny Sellers "Mirror Blues" "Newport News"
1139 Rudy Green "Love Is a Pain" "No Need of Your Crying"
1140 The Flamingos "Hurry Home Baby" "That's My Desire"
1141 The Spaniels "Baby, It's You" "Bounce"
1142 Jimmy Reed "High and Lonesome" "Roll and Rhumba"
1143 Bertha Henderson "Rock, Daddy, Rock" "Tears in My Eyes"
1144 Johnny Young "You Go to My Head" "Memories of You"
1145 The Flamingos "Carried Away" "Golden Teardrops"
1146 Rudy Green "The Letter" "It's You I Love"
1147 The Moonglows "Whistle My Love" "Baby Please"
1148 Lazy Biill "She Got Me Walkin" "I Had a Dream"
1149 The Flamingos "Plan for Love" "You Ain't Ready"
1150 The Moonglows "Just a Lonely Christmas" "Hey Santa Claus"
1151 Rudy Green "I Had a Feeling" "Meet Me Baby"
1152 The Moonglows "Secret Love" "Real Gone Mama"
1153 Conti Condoli (sic) "Flamingo" "Mambo Junior"
1154 The Flamingos "Cross over the Bridge" "Listen to My Plea"
1155 J. B. and His Hawks "Combination Boogie" "Now She's Gone"
1156 The Moonglows "Ooh Rocking Daddy" "I Was Wrong"
1157 The Five Chances "I May Be Small" "Nagasaki"
1158 Bobby Prince "If You Only Knew" "Think It Over"
1159 Freddie Hall "This Crooked World" "Knock Me Out"
1160 J. B. and His Hawks "Pet Cream Man" "Lovin You"
1161 The Moonglows "219 Train" "My Gal"
1162 The Flamingos "Blues in a Letter" "Jump Children"
1163 Willie Nix "Nervous Wreck" "No More Love"
1165 J. B. Hutto and His Hawks "Dim Lights" "Things Are So Slow"
3006 Al Trace and His Orchestra "Please Mr. Right Man" "Tantalazing Melody"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Discography at
  2. ^ a b c Pruter, Robert (1997). Doowop: The Chicago Scene. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 21–39 ISBN 978-0-252-06506-4
  3. ^ a b Pruter, Robert, Campbell, Robert L., & Büttner, Armin. (June 2005). The Chance Label. Blues & Rhythm, no. 200, 12–27.
  4. ^ a b Rowe, Mike (1981). Chicago Blues: The City and the Music. New York: Da Capo, p. 106. ISBN 978-0-306-80145-7
  5. ^ Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, p. 188. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3
  6. ^ Obrecht, Jas (2000). Rollin' and Tumblin': The Postwar Blues Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, p. 156 ISBN 978-0-87930-613-7
  7. ^ Rowe, p. 109.
  8. ^ Rowe, pp. 113, 129.
  9. ^ Rowe, pp. 109–112.
  10. ^ Rowe, pp. 112–113
  11. ^ a b Rowe, p. 112
  12. ^ a b Murray, p. 188.
  13. ^ Warner, Jay (2006). The Moonglows. In American Singing Groups: A History, From 1940 to Today. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, pp. 260–261. ISBN 978-0-634-09978-6
  14. ^ Obrecht, p. 191.
  15. ^ Gillett, Charlie. (1996). The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll. New York: Da Capo Press, p. 84 ISBN 978-0-306-80683-4

External links[edit]