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"Dewey and Elvis": new book

Thu Jul 21, 2005 11:46 pm


Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of A Rock 'n' Roll Deejay by Louis Cantor
University of Illinois Press, USA, 2005, Hardcover (with dust jacket) , ISBN: 025202981X

Anybody read this yet? I guess it's another one to put on the pile to read!

There's a brief review of it in the U.S. rockabilly magazine "Blue Suede News" this month. Here's more information from the University's website, including brief clips of Dewey in action from the "Red, Hot and Blue Live" album:

The Red, Hot and Blue deejay who helped legitimize race music and introduce Elvis Presley to the world

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.

A volume in the series Music in American Life

LOUIS CANTOR is professor emeritus of history at Indiana University. He now lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is the author of Wheelin' on Beale: How WDIA-Memphis Became the Nation's First All-Black Radio Station and Created the Sound That Changed America, and A Prologue to the Protest Movement: The Missouri Sharecropper Roadside Demonstration of 1939, which was made into an award-winning documentary film. Cantor, who grew up in Memphis, went to Humes High School with Elvis Presley.

Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:37 am

One of the great DJs.

If Cantor has found new information on Elvis' SUN period, this book is a must. If not, one questions if the author can tell Dewey's story with any vigor and spark. After 1957, Dewey fell away from Elvis and apart in general.


Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:43 am

There's a good review of it - by Nigel who is a real Elvis book expert - on EIN.
"From his unique style and eccentric studio behaviour to his womanising and eventual self-destruction in a body tormented by physical pain only partially placated by pills and booze, Dewey Phillips' life is a riveting one."
Dewey book review here

I haven't seen a copy yet, but he loved it & I'm ordering one


Fri Jul 22, 2005 8:54 am

Thanks Piers, My compliments to Nigel. I'll just have to purchase another bookcase:-)

Here's another review of Louis Cantor's book.

Another thousand or so books on Elvis and we'll have an idea of what he was really like...maybe.