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A Memphis-based filmmaker is leading an effort to save a relic of his hometown radio station. No ordinary frequency, WHBQ/560’s studio is where, in 1954, DJ Dewey Phillips interviewed a 19-year-old Elvis Presley and helped introduce the future king of rock ‘n’ roll to the world.
Mike McCarthy is spearheading a fundraising project to raise a total of $50,000 to preserve Phillips’ radio broadcast room, which is located at Hotel Chisca in downtown Memphis. The building is in the midst of a multimillion dollar conversion into apartments.
If the fundraising goal is met, the money will go toward excavating the room’s walls, original acoustic tiling and bay window recording glass, and storing it all until a permanent home is found. The hope is that the building’s developers will agree to keep and display the radio room, reconstructed and retrofitted with vintage equipment, in a museum setting in the restaurant area in the lobby.
The annals of rock history will tell you it’s that precise location where on July 8, 1954, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips brought jock Dewey Phillips a recording of Presley’s first single, “That’s All Right,” which he’d recorded just two days before. It was a new genre without a name yet and Dewey Phillips couldn’t get enough of it, spinning the single at least 14 times on the air in one night to appease demanding callers listening to his segregation-free program “Red, Hot, & Blue.”
Phillips was so impressed, that he had a nervous Presley corralled to his studio for a casual conversation, not telling him until after the show’s end that they had been broadcast on the air. This was Presley’s first piece of exposure and helped to launch his career.
See a video tour of the space below:
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