Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Chessmen, Joe Meriweather & Riot-Chous Records (Decatur)

Back row: Casey Green, Mike Milo, Larry Songer, Terry Hudson, Hosea Williams; Kneeling in front: Rick Grammer, Mike Ritchie
The Chessmen were an R&B / soul group from Decatur, Illinois that was active from 1962 to 1966.  During this time the group performed regularly throughout the state and released two singles on their own Riot-Chous Records ( 3205 Meadow Lane, Decatur, Ill. ) :
  • "Bird Train" / "She's Mine"  [1963]
  • "Lucille" / "I Just Lost The Girl I Love" [1964]

Band members of the group included Hosea Williams (vocals), Mike Ritchie (guitar), Rick Grammer (bass), Mike Milo (sax), Terry Hudson (sax), Paul McNalley (sax) and Larry Songer (drums).  Additional vocalists in the group were Casey Green, Ernie Jennings and Joe Meriweather.

Both Chessmen singles were recorded at Technisonic Studios in St. Louis, Missouri.

The only other known release on the Riot-Chous label was a single by Joe Meriweather.  It is likely that the Chessmen were the backing band on the single.   
  • "There's Nothin' I Wouldn't Do" / "Sweet Lorraine"

Prior to this released Meriweather sang and recorded with Preston Jackson & the Rhythm Aces.  The group released singles on Vee-Jay and Hit Records (reissued on Hermitage). 

Here is a rare TV performance circa 1966 of Joe Meriweather and the Chessmen on Marty's Dance Party (a live teen dance show hosted by Marty Roberts which aired on WTVP - Decatur and WICS - Springfield):

In 1966, Meriweather along with several members of the Chessmen merged with members of the Casuals (another Decatur group) to form the Reel Blues.  The Reel Blues never released any records but several members did release a single as The Chosen Few in 1966.

The Reel Blues: Joe Meriweather, Rick Grammer, on top: Mike Ritchie & Larry Songer,
Ted Dorman, Jim Gleeson, Mike Milo and Paul McNalley (1968)

Music by the Chessmen and Joe Meriweather will be featured on the January 10th episode of the Downstate Sounds radio show. 


  1. Terry Hudson, with the Chessman, was my dad. Thanks for sharing this!!

  2. You're welcome! What a great band. I wish they had made more records.

  3. Joe Meriweather is my father. This was an awesome piece. Very cool to be able to experience this part of his life through this article. Thank you