All the talk lately about saving the Chisca reminds me of a story Ardent Studios founder John Fry once told me about Dewey Phillips.
I never got to use this for anything, but John was talking about Dewey’s “Red Hot and Blue” radio program on WHBQ, which in the 1950s was broadcast from the mezzanine level of the Chisca. It’s where Phillips dispensed his zany catch phrases like “Get yerself a wheelbarrow load of mad hogs, run ‘em through the front door, and tell ‘em Phillips sent ya!”
Anyway, as John tells it, WHBQ had become a very good top-40 station.
“They had very polished announcers, they had these – what were modern jingles, and they played from an organized playlist, and it was a good station in that regard,” he said.
“But then, twice a day, they would turn this crazy man on.”
“When I went down to the radio station to visit one time, they showed me these control rooms that were organized and neat and all that kind of thing,” Fry said. “Then they took me into this other control room that was pretty basic, kind of beat-up looking. And they said, ‘Well, this is Dewey Phillips’ studio.’ He was, like, barred from the real studio.
“He had to have his own, because they thought he was going to tear up everything.”
Not just that: Fry said the other studios would actually get locked up at night to keep a certain wild DJ out.
“While I was listening one night, and it had come on that the Russians had successfully launched Sputnik,” Fry recalled. “Well, here’s Dewey down here, and he gets all excited and thinks he needs to put the network news on so that people can get this momentous news. But he’s locked out of the other studios where you could turn the network feed on.
“So he actually broke down the door into the other studio – on air – so the news could be turned on. It was just crazy stuff that would never fly in today’s orderly radio world. But I tell you, it held your interest because it was unpredictable.”