Leonard Chess, a white man, starts a record label with black musicians during a time when black music had yet to become popular. Leonard Chess is a working-class Polish-American with a dream of opening up a music club one day. McKinley Morganfield is a sharecropper down South who sings and plays guitar, but doesn't expect anything, as the South isn't kind to black people. McKinley is given the opportunity to record his music by some people making folk music records for the Library of Congress. After listening to a record of himself for the first time, he moves to Chicago and plays acoustic guitar in the street until he meets Geneva, a beautiful young woman who buys him an amplifier. The amplifier gives his music more edge and draws more attention to him. He meets Jimmy Rogers and Little Walter, and together they form a competitive trio, fighting (sometimes literally) for jobs around Chicago. They catch the ear of Leonard, now a club owner, who has been contacted by a producer looking to make albums by black musicians to keep an eye out. Leonard and McKinley, who now goes by Muddy Waters, make an album, but this turns the city against Leonard-- his club is burned down by racists who resent his affiliation with a black man. Leonard, unswayed, builds a recording studio instead of another club, and he begins an incredible run of musical and financial success during his era. This includes albums by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, powerful blues singer Howlin' Wolf, country rocker Chuck Berry, and the sassy crooner Etta James. This many artists in one places cause ego-related friction, especially between Muddy and Wolf, and it's up to Leonard to try to keep his company afloat, keep his artists happy, and keep from ruining his marriage despite his growing obsession with Etta.
Best part of story, including ending:
This is a grossly underrated biopic, with some terrific music, recreated beautifully by the actors, and strong performances throughout.
Best scene in story:
At one point, Little Walter, drunk and looking for trouble, tries to seduce Muddy's wife after Muddy makes him angry. It ends with her rejecting him and him crying, a powerful scene.
Opinion about the main character:
Leonard is ambitious to a fault, but his drive is definitely admirable. He may not be likable at every turn, but he is always interesting to watch on screen.