Red, Hot And Blue – Dewey Phillips And Race Radio In The 1950s – Past Daily Pop Chronicles
Click on the link here for Audio Player – WHBQ – Dewey Phillips: Red, Hot and Blue – November 1950 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Before the days of Rock n’ Roll, Popular Music was segregated into Mainstream and Race. Race music was primarily music recorded by and sold almost exclusively to the African-American Market. Race Music incorporated Rhythm & Blues, Jump-Blues, Popular music by Black artists who were popular on the “Chitlin’ circuit”, artists who almost never transitioned over to mainstream or the White Audience market and traditional Blues. But in the late 1940s there were grumblings that indicated something was brewing which would eventually change the face of the music industry forever. By 1950 Jump-Blues (which had popularized in the 1940s by Louis Jordan, who was one of the few Black artists to transition over to mainstream) was becoming a popular genre, and it was going through changes in style. Coupled with an urbanization of Blues music – getting out of the backwoods and assimilating into cities like Chicago, New Orleans and New York, the stage was set for a major upheaval and the introduction of Rock n’ Roll. One of those people who saw this new music as a wave of the future was Dewey Phillips, who had landed his first job as a Disc-Jockey for the Memphis station WHBQ. Since Independent stations at the time were pretty far down on the economic totem-pole, and air of freeform was the rule for Phillips nightly program Red, Hot and Blue. With his insane, rapid-fire banter and his emphasis on Race Records, Phillips became an overnight sensation. And it was his show that introduced a largely unaware White audience what it had been missing and what it was about to fall in love with. Phillips is also credited for being the first disc jockey to run an Elvis Presley record on his show. Soon, the Philips style was copied and a number of disc-jockeys emulated the format, including Alan Freed in Cleveland. Whether Phillips is the very first one to get the ball rolling depends on who you talk to and what part of the country they came from. But Phillips style laid the groundwork for much of what would be frantic and society-changing in the coming years. Sadly, Phillips career deteriorated and by 1968 he had died of heart failure, brought on largely by his chronic drinking and Amphetamine use. But his contribution can never be underestimated. As a sample of what Red, Hot and Blue was all about, and the frantic style of Dewey Phillips, here is a half-hour excerpt from one of his shows, via WHBQ and aired sometime in November of 1950. They just don’t make crazy like that anymore.
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