Memphis Monday: A Look at the Man Behind the Musical, Dewey Phillips

 

Wildman DJ Dewey Phillips introduced white kids to "race" music.

The premiere of Memphis The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

Before fans feast their eyes on the high-energy regional premiere of the show, it’s important to showcase the man behind the musical, real-life disc jockey, Dewey Phillips.

We recently had the chance to catch up with Tom Bonner, a retired broadcaster who worked with the legendary disc jockey on WHBQ for a short time in the 1950s. Read more about how Phillips took the music scene in Memphis and across the country by storm and watch our special interview with Bonner below!

Early Start

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Dewey Phillips was credited with introducing Elvis Presley to the world on Memphis’ WHBQ radio station.

Phillips got his first 15-minute radio slot in 1949, jumping into it from his job managing the record department at the W.T. Grant 5 and 10, where he spun a mix of the latest records – hillbilly and “race” music, sacred and profane, Frank Sinatra and Wynonie “Mr. Blues” Harris – over the store’s PA.

From the start, he drew an equally mixed, equally eclectic in-house audience – as many young as old, as many black as white – in a

segregated store, in segregated Memphis, located in the heart of the Deep South. His radio show, which aired on WHBQ, was titled “Red, Hot and Blue.” Within a year, he was on the air six nights a week, two hours a night.

Top Record Survey from July 18, 1958 provided by Tom Bonner

Top Record Survey from July 18, 1958 provided by Tom Bonner

 TV Time

His television show, Pop Shop, went on the air in 1957. A version of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, the show was, for a period, the biggest thing going in Memphis.

Don’t miss your chance to see this award-winning musical Sept. 5-28! Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now! Purchase online here and get more information about the show–including special events– here.

Memphis Monday: A Historical Look at Memphis The Musical

The premiere of Memphis The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

Before fans feast their eyes on the high-energy regional premiere of the show, it’s important to showcase where it all started and where it’s going, not to mention its collection of awards it has gathered along the way.

Robert L. Neblett, an expert in American theatre, has prepared an educational study guide to accompany students for special student matinee performances of Memphis The Musical, which includes a historical look of the production:

History

Memphis: The Musical was originally developed at the North Shore Music Festival in Massachusetts and TheatreWorks in California in 2003-04, and subsequently staged at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in 2008 and Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2009.

memphis

Chad Kimball (far right) played Memphis DJ Huey Calhoun in the original Broadway production of Memphis The Musical, starting in 2009.

The musical opened on Broadway in October 2009, where it played for over 1,100 performances before closing in 2012. In late 2011, the actor playing Huey Calhoun, Chad Kimball, left the musical’s cast due to an injury, and was replaced by Adam Pascal, best known for starring in the original Broadway casts of Rent and Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida.

In 2011-13, the producers mounted a successful national tour of the musical.

The original Broadway production was filmed in high-definition for a limited digital cinema release in 2011, after which it was released on DVD.

Memphis: The Musical will open in London’s West End in late 2014.

Awards

Memphis was nominated for 8 and won 4 Tony Awards (celebrating the best in Broadway theatre) in 2010, including:memphis-the-musical

BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Joe DiPietro

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Joe DiPietro and David Bryan

BEST ORCHESTRATIONS: Daryl Waters and David Bryan

BEST MUSICAL

Memphis won 4 Drama Desk Awards (celebrating the best in theatre throughout New York City, on Broadway and off), including:

OUTSTANDING MUSIC: David Bryan

OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS: David Bryan and Daryl Waters

BEST MUSICAL

It also won 4 Outer Critics’ Circle Awards, including:

BEST SCORE: David Bryan and Joe DiPietro

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Sergio Trujillo

BEST MUSICAL

Don’t miss your chance to see this award-winning musical take The Rep stage Sept. 5-28! Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now! Purchase online here and get more information about the show–including special events– here.

Memphis Monday: Bon Jovi’s David Bryan Brings High-Energy Music to Show

David Bryan

Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan co-wrote Memphis with Joe DiPietro.

The premiere of Memphis: The Musical is fast approaching and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we’ll be doing a short series called “Memphis Monday” every Monday through Sept. 22.

To kick things off, one of things we are most excited about in the production is the energetic music that will be rocking the theatre.

One of the musicians behind the fabulous original rock ‘n’ roll score in Memphis: The Musical is Grammy Award-winning David Bryan, keyboardist and one of the founding members of classic rock band Bon Jovi, a band who has sold more than 130 million records over the last 26 years. You’ve probably heard of “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

Memphis: The Musical is Bryan’s first dip into musical theatre and what’s incredible is that his debut won a 2010 Tony Award for Best Composer, a 2010 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Score. In fact, taking the stage on Broadway from Oct. 19, 2009 to Aug. 5, 2012, Memphis has garnered eight Tony Award nominations total, winning four Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Musical.

The Memphis: The Musical story goes like this: In the underground nightclubs of 1950s Memphis lies a new era of music– rock ‘n’ roll, blues and gospel– that is emerging into the mainstream. Falling in love with a beautiful club singer, white DJ Dewey Phillips’ desire to bring her voice and music out of the clubs and onto the national landscape will go against cultural divides and ignite a music revolution.

From the first notes of its opening number “Underground” right up to a rousing finale called “Steal Your Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Memphis delivers one energetic song after the next.

Get your tickets to show- single tickets are available now! Get more information here.

Check out the Broadway.com video as Bryan and DiPietro highlight the score: http://bcove.me/do4fodl9