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Southern Raisin': Elvis Presley and D.J. Phillips

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None of our friends believed James and I were in the great D. J. Phillips' studio, so that killed my bragging.

We returned and waited in James' wagon on the street hoping Dewey would recognize us, as we had to prove a point. Finally, we waved and he motioned us upstairs to witness more Dewey carrying on.

When I told Dewey no one believed we were there previously, he jerked that microphone, and like water spewing from a fire hose, let the world know we were with him. Boy, I was the big bull in the lower pasture now.

Dewey played "78" records on turntables, occasionally simultaneously; whether true or not, but the split-second delay influenced the future recording business to a "delay" sound similar to the present day reverb.

After Dewey signed off, with his 1948 signature version of "Write Me a Letter" by the Ravens, we enjoyed jam sessions on Beale Street. No one nowadays can believe, but back then it was safe to go anywhere at any time in downtown Memphis. Most sessions were just ordinary working folks, wanting in the booming music business and having fun.

When Phillips entered a session, the patrons screamed and James and I were nervously excited by the reverence shown. Everyone asked Dewey to help them, and he wanted to be first to break news, so it meshed. He knew the location of every session back door and everybody loved him.

Once, touring Beale Street, Phillips spoke to a friendly musician named Clyde! When I inquired who the fella' was (might be famous), he said, "I'm not sure, but he sounds like Clyde McPhatter." He only knew me as "Bolton."

When radio station WHBQ was sold in the late '50s, the new fad of a top 40 show knocked Dewey out of a job. The new owners didn't understand the popularity of this eccentric Southerner and his carefree style. Maybe Dewey thought he had done something wrong and it haunted him. I don't know.

For years, Dewey changed radio stations, but never staying long at any particular one. The last time I conversed with Dewey was at radio station WGMM 1380 AM in Millington on his afternoon record hop. Several local youngsters would depart school and skip to the station in the Plaza shopping center as Sandra Orman reminded me, along with Pam and Becky, they could dance right outside the studio and wave to Dewey. Patty and Sherry also hopped around to Phillips' delightful entertainment.

Elvis rode to the station on his motorcycle and gave Dewey a new loaded diamond ring, which he proudly displayed. Later, Dewey had pawned it, but Elvis retrieved it, with the message, "Don't do this anymore, I'll not trace it down again."

Mr. Wages, who co-owned the station, told me when Dewey quit two weeks later, and the ring was also gone.

The automobile wrecks, polio and the depression of the lost jobs and popularity took its toll. I choose to remember the vibrant, energetic, caring, pioneer-of-a-person, rather than the last years.

Dewey Phillips finally succumbed at his mother's home at the age of 42. Elvis attended his dear friend Dewey Phillips' funeral and ironically, Elvis died at the tender age of 42.

Although Sam Phillips recorded Elvis, Dewey Phillips (no relation) was the one who got Elvis' career going by spinning the initial "78." Remember Our Southern Music Heroes...Glory!

Otis Griffin is the author of the book "Southern Raisin." He was born in Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.

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