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Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of a Rock 'n' Roll Deejay

By: David Neale
Source: Books In Print
August 23, 2005 - 11:38:00 PM
Elvis Reviews, Elvis Book Reviews, By David Neale

Dewey And Elvis: The Life And Times Of A Rock 'n' Roll Deejay
Dewey And Elvis: The Life And Times Of A Rock 'n' Roll Deejay
The title and the cover photo of 'Dewey and Elvis' perhaps give the impression that Elvis features to a far greater extent in this book than is the case. Certainly Elvis is there, but he is just one of the main players in this biography of Dewey Phillips.

Dewey Phillips? Just about every Elvis fan knows the name as that of the disc-jockey who first played Elvis' That's All Right on his 'Red, Hot and Blue' radio programme, but how much more does the average Elvis fan know about the man? Very little, I suspect. Hardly surprising, really, as he has not been the subject of any other significant work and is generally mentioned only in passing in most books about Elvis, certainly, for that first play, and, indeed, in most other books about Rock and Roll music.

Yet, as 'Dewey and Elvis' amply demonstrates, he was a major force in the development of Rock and Roll music. The amazing thing is that the man came basically from nowhere: he was not a radio professional, he had very little presenting experience, he was just about illiterate, yet he helped to turn Memphis and then the world upside down, before succumbing to a tragic end.

The whole story of Dewey Phillips is ably related by Louis Cantor, a professor of history at Indiana University, the author of a number of other books, some of which are music-related, and a onetime fellow student at Humes High School with Elvis. Cantor bases his biography on interviews, documentary sources, and historical collections. Those interviewed include Dot Phillips, Dewey's wife, and numerous others, many of whose names are familiar in the world of Elvis: Sam Phillips, George Klein, Barbara Pittman - and many others who are quoted or referred to are equally familiar.

Cantor manages to place all of the events and players into context, thereby allowing us to understand the incredible influence of Dewey Phillips on the development of Rock and Roll and its contributions towards the breaking down of social and cultural racial divides. What is truly amazing is that three men, Dewey Phillips, Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley, just happened to converge on Memphis (none of them originating from the place) and then reacted with each other. Sam and Dewey were particularly close and the book describes how Elvis found something of a mentor in Dewey.

Although 'Dewey and Elvis' is not a book primarily about Elvis, it is most certainly one which will appeal to many Elvis fans. As indicated above, one of the main strengths of the book is that it contextualises Elvis, so that a better understanding can be gained of the forces that influenced him in those now far-off segregated days, in a time that we find increasingly difficult to imagine.

'Dewey and Elvis' is illustrated with black and white photographs, some of which depict Elvis, contains copious notes, demonstrating the amount of research performed by the author, includes an extensive bibliography and is indexed.

David Neale

Author: Louis Cantor
Hardback, 287 pp.

Buy Dewey And Elvis


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Elvis Presley Video Video Preview: Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD

Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet. Never before have we seen an Elvis concert from the 50's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered Unreleased Film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don’t Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. This is an excellent release no fan should be without it. The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people.

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