PLUNK GENEALOGY -- see "Family" label on this blog and/or write Mike at

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Elvis Moment

Elvis is pictured with the very beautiful Natalie Wood and the not-so-beautiful -- but significant -- Dewey Phillips.

Phillips was a leading DJ in Memphis for many years at WHBQ. He broke barriers by playing a mix of music including country, pop and rhythm & blues -- by both black and white artists. It was Phillips who first aired Elvis' initial record "That's All Right Mama/Blue Moon of Kentucky." Sam Phillips (not related to Dewey) walked an acetate of the brand new record down to Dewey who was on the air at the time. He played the record; listeners started calling in and, as they say, the rest is history.

Sam Phillips, Sun Records, had in his pre-Elvis days produced a number of black artists including Ike Turner, but Sam's real goal was to find a white singer who could successfully carry off black music. That was the way he knew he could carry the wonderful R&B feel and tunes to a white audience. When Elvis' records first gained air time, the audience presumed he was black. No one had ever heard a white performer sing like that.

In an early interview with the 19-year-old Elvis, Dewey "outed" his race by asking a simple question in segregated Memphis. "What high school did you attend?" Clever. You couldn't just ask a guest "Are you black or white?" When Elvis said he'd graduated from Humes High, the wow factor was huge.


Anonymous said...

Dewey has an East High connection..His niece Diane Barba '63 and his nephew David Barba '65 (?) were both graduates of East.

Scarlett said...

Hey, thanks for the info. I didn't know that.