Dewey Phillips

Red Hot & Blue

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In the pantheon of great, original rock & roll disc jockeys -- men who put their careers on the line to play the real thing -- two names always immediately come to mind: Alan Freed and Dewey Phillips. The King of Memphis radio, with his Red, Hot & Blue broadcast on WHBQ the number one show with a biracial teen audience, Phillips created the now-stereotypical character of the hyperactive, fast-talking, demented disc jockey, but with three important differences: he was the first to play all styles of music -- black and white, blues, hillbilly, pop, and jazz -- and appeal to all races; he was doing it in the South in 1948 and it was no act, Dewey really was nuts; and he was the first to play Elvis Presley. (And, as the cover to this amazing collection of radio airchecks also points out, the first to introduce him to drugs.) He ruled the Memphis airwaves for ten years until the rise of Top 40 and changing tastes banished him from the marketplace, flaming out early at 42 in 1968. This collection kicks off with a compilation of three early WHBQ broadcasts, complete with crackpot asides, speed freak delivery, and impeccable musical taste. The other side is Dewey at the end, broadcasting over some little station, still crazy, but now dangerously so. The drugs are clearly doing all the work, his speed-rapping style almost incomprehensible; he overloads the board, twisting the wrong dials, playing the wrong side of a record, etc. It closes with an amazing on-air admission that the record he just played is "another one of them payola records." As an artifact of American radio long since gone, this album would be a worthy addition to anyone's collection. As a piece of American rock & roll history, file it under indispensable.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick