Beginning in 1949, while Elvis Presley and Sun Records were still virtually unknown--and two full years before Alan Freed famously "discovered" rock 'n' roll--Dewey Phillips brought rock 'n' roll to the Memphis airwaves by playing Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, and Muddy Waters on his nightly radio show Red, Hot and Blue. The mid-South's most popular white deejay, "Daddy-O-Dewey" 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). This book illustrates Phillips's role in turning a huge white audience on to previously forbidden race music. His 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, Louis Cantor presents a very personal view of the disc jockey while arguing for his place as an essential part of rock 'n' roll history.
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.