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October 30, 2014


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Dewey Phillips
Red Hot & Blue (Memphis Archives)

By: Gary "Pig" Gold

They don't make disc jockeys like Dewey Phillips anymore. In fact, I don't think they even make people like Dewey Phillips anymore, and if they did, I doubt they'd ever be allowed to broadcast their own particular brand of madness over anybody's airwaves anywhere, at any time. For what Phillips achieved in his near decade-long reign as King of the Memphis Radio Dial may have been often imitated, and with more commercial success, elsewhere (ie: Alan Freed is often cited as the "inventor" of rock'n'roll radio, but Dewey was doing it first; and as for "American Bandstand", Dewey had his own daily televised rockfest beamed into unsuspecting living rooms back when Dick Clark was still an unknown Philly weatherman).

Yet whereas Freed and Clark, up north and with more financial backing, could easily sanitize the Red Hot & Blue style for wider acceptance, they nor anyone else never, ever attempted to emulate Phillips' crazed, motor-mouthed style: yes, not content to simply sing along with, he more often that not screamed over top of his playlist. Radio had never sounded so vibrant or, to some, more dangerous.

By the mid-50's, "Daddy-O" Dewey had parlayed his knowledge and love of hardcore rhythm'n'blues into a forum from which he first inspired, and then helped launch to worldwide fame, such local fans of his as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and for that alone Phillips undeniable earned his place as a Founding Father of Rock'n'Roll. Instead, becoming increasingly disenchanted with the comparatively meek, mild sounds of the 1960's, and unable to find a home for his particular strain of insanity as rock swiftly became Big Bizness, he died alone and broken in '68 and to this day wrongfully remains as little more than a footnote in the better Elvis biographies.

Finally, someone's made a dent in this historical travesty by issuing on disc, for the first time ever, an hour's worth of airchecks from throughout Dewey's career, and these make for not only enjoyable listening (especially his frequent ad-libbed ads for used furniture stores and "CV Champagne Velvet: The Beer Of 1952!") but provide a hitherto unseen glimpse at the very genesis of a musical - and social - revolution. For on Dewey Phillips' lowly radio show, we can hear two hitherto disparate cultures struggling to unite in song, and the ramifications of this movement, once complete, shook the world.

On Red Hot & Blue, we have the rare opportunity then to eavesdrop on this history-shaking Moment of Creation, and to marvel at, and belatedly pay respects to, the man who put it all in motion. And on the radio. Order your own piece of history today by contacting the address below, "and tell 'em Phillips sent ya!"

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