Arts and Culture

In post-World War II Tennessee, radio stations were just as segregated as restaurants and hotels. The award-winning musical “Memphis” is loosely based on the life of Dewey Phillips, the white DJ who integrated the Memphis airwaves in the early days of rock and roll. In “Memphis,” Phillips is re-imagined as fast-talking DJ Huey Calhoun, who falls in love with an African American nightclub singer. 

The national tour of “Memphis” opens in the Broadway Series in the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall tonight. The musical won four Tony Awards in 2010, including Best Musical.  “Memphis” is set in rock radio stations and Beale Street clubs, but it features all original, award-winning music written by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan.

WFPL’s Erin Keane spoke with producer Sue Frost about the challenges of developing new Broadway musicals and the story of how a city integrated its radio waves.