It all started in 1949 when Memphis's own WDIA became the first radio station in the country to switch to all-black programming. After WDIA went off the air, WHBQ decided to capture some of their newly discovered black audience by putting "Daddy-O-Dewey" Phillips--the most popular white deejay in the mid-South-- on a new show, Red, Hot and Blue. Although the show originally aired for just fifteen minutes a night, its impact was immeasurable.
While Elvis and Sun Records were still virtually unknown--and two full years before Alan Freed famously "discovered" rock 'n' roll--Dewey Phillips was playing Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, and Muddy Waters. Phillips is part of rock 'n' roll history for being the first major disc jockey to play Elvis Presley (and subsequently to conduct the first live, on-air interview with Elvis). Louis Cantor argues, however, for an expanded understanding of Phillips's role in turning a huge white audience on to previously forbidden race music. Phillips's zeal for rhythm and blues legitimized the sound and set the stage for both Elvis's subsequent success and the rock 'n' roll revolution of the 1950s.
Using personal interviews, documentary sources, and the oral history collections at the Center
for Southern Folklore and the University of Memphis, Cantor presents a very personal view of the
disc jockey while arguing for his place as an essential part of rock 'n' roll history. Loaded with
anecdotes and insights about key figures, including Elvis's close friend George Klein and Sun
Records's Sam Phillips, Dewey and Elvis will be irresistible to anyone interested in Elvis,
the Memphis music scene, or the history of rock 'n' roll.
21 May 2005