The film Cadillac Records is a biopic that retells the story of a few major R&B artists during the 1950s and 1960s. The film mainly focuses on the characters Muddy Waters and the Leonard Chess. The film later includes other famous artists such as Chuck Berry, Etta James, and Little Walter. It also briefly shows Mick Jagger, from The Rolling Stones near the end of the film, and occasionally Howlin Wolf and Hubert Sumlin make an appearance.
The movie first introduces the main characters. Leonard Chess is portrayed to audience as an ambitious young man. His parents were polish immigrants, and he dreams of being successful and rich. As the movie progresses and he is shown to be a competent businessman; and he also seems to care for the musicians that he works with, especially Muddy. A few minutes later, Muddy Waters is shown. Muddy, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield, comes from a farm in Mississippi. An ethnomusicologist named Alan Lomax appears to record folk music for the Library of Congress, which is how Muddy was able to hear his sound for the first time. From this event, Muddy decides to leave Mississippi and go to Chicago to try and make it into the music business. It’s in Chicago that Muddy meets the angry and bitter, but talented harmonica player Little Walter. Muddy was able to first get recorded after he and Little Walter started a fight in Leonard Chess’s club. Leonard saw Muddy’s potential and wanted to record him. In order for Muddy to be a success, Leonard knew Muddy needed to be on the radio. They drove down to Mississippi because Leonard knew the music would be a hit there first. Once the two of them arrived to the radio station in Mississippi, Leonard had to bribe the radio station, a business tactic known as payola, to even get Muddy’s record to be played.
The record label, Chess Records, opened in the 1950s and closed in the 1960s in Chicago. Muddy was the first artist to be signed to Chess Records. Muddy and Leonard formed a partnership in order to make the label successful. Muddy first started his career playing in negro clubs, but as he became more well known, it seemed like the venues he played in didn’t change. In one scene in the movie, Muddy is on stage playing with a famous guitarist named Hubert Sumlin. In the scene all the musicians were wearing suits and everyone, except Muddy, were in the back.
As Muddy became more famous, Chess Records did as well. More and more artists were signed to the label. First came Chuck Berry. He is seen as a very humorous and humble man, he loves to entertain, but he hates how African-Americans are seen as less compared to white people. At first he is known for playing country music, which is discussed when he tries to perform at a venue and the owner did not believe he was actually Chuck Berry. Another artist who is signed to Chess Records is Etta James, who recently died in Riverside in 2012. Etta James in the movie is seen as a tough and stubborn young woman. She has a...