Preserving the place where Elvis got his start - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Preserving the place where Elvis got his start

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Notorious DJ Dewey Philips made Elvis famous from the WHBQ Radio Studios in the Chisca Hotel. 

The hotel was abandoned years ago, but is now being redeveloped. A team is working together to make sure the place where Elvis got his start is preserved.

It was July 1954. Philips, an established Memphis radio disc jockey, decided to take a chance on his hit show Red Hot and Blue. He played a song called "That's All Right," by an unknown local teenager named Elvis Presley. The song was an instant sensation and Elvis was brought to the WHBQ Studios to do his first broadcast interview.

Mike McCarthy, a music history buff, is leading the charge to turn this room into an exhibit. It's located on the second floor of the long abandoned Chisca Hotel. located at the corner South Main and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Though the former hotel has been in a state of decay and vandalism, the radio studio is relatively untouched.  A development is turning the 100-year-old Chisca into apartments and is on board for saving the room that birthed rock and roll music.

"Dewey Philips integrated the airwaves; he played black music for the white kids, white music for the black kids," McCarthy said. "Out of that came Elvis Presley, who took all these styles - country, rhythm and blues, pop, gospel - and out of that came rock and roll, and it was first broadcast out of this room."

McCarthy is hoping to raise $50,000 in the next six weeks through the website  It's called Red Hot and Rescue, a play off of Philips' radio show Red Hot and Blue.

The plan is to move this room to the lobby of the Chisca Hotel and restore the original WHBQ radio equipment, which has been preserved.

"Just have a little slice of music history downtown," McCarthy said. "One more thing for tourists to see and kids to see and understand,  how Memphis matters in the history and creation of rock and roll.

"The heart of the building is Elvis Presley, and sometimes you have to make sure that extra special care is taken."

If you want to donate to this campaign, here is a link to the fundraising campaign:


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