Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dewey Phillips & Gene Vincent: Matching Leg Injuries

I've just finished reading the book "Dewey and Elvis" by Louis Cantor. It's not really a book about Elvis. It's a detailed biography of Dewey Phillips, the hugely popular radio and TV disc jockey in Memphis during the 1950s and 1960s. The last three chapters are absolutely heartbreaking. The last ten years of his life were a steady downhill slope to physical and mental ruin. I did not know this, but Dewey had a horrible physical affliction just like Gene Vincent. It seems he, too, had a leg badly injured twice in car wrecks. Just like Gene, he should have had it amputated. Again, like Gene, he refused and the leg deteriorated, described in this book very much like the descriptions we've read about Gene's bad leg. And again, like Gene, Dewey sought relief from pain with alcohol and prescription medicine, too much of both. Whereas Gene was at least able to work until his death, Dewey was separated from his wife and children, lived with his Mother, but was most often seen babbling to himself in Memphis street gutters. The author of this book is a lifelong Memphian and worked at radio stations in Memphis in the 1950s. His firsthand knowledge of the city and the people involved in the local music scene there make this book one of the most authoritatively written books about rock 'n' roll in Memphis that I have read. This book was published in 2005 by the University of Illinois Press.