The Old Chisca Hotel’s Music History Could Be A Part Of Its Future
(Memphis) Along the trolley line on South Main Street, the Chisca Hotel feebly stands eight stories tall.
The 100-year-old building is an eyesore after decades of neglect, but many hope the Chisca’s historical significance in music could help restore it to prominence.
Jack Parnell, a longtime voice over artist was a disc jockey at the old WHBQ radio in the Chisca, “It’s kind of sad to see what has happened down here because of so many things we made happen, especially Dewey(Phillips) made happen here.”
The Chisca’s mezzanine was the broadcast base for the station’s “Red, Hot, and Blue” program.
It was from here Dewey Phillips gave a record a test spin in 1954 forever changing music.
The song was “That’s all right” and the singer was an unknown artist and teenager named Elvis Presley.
“Of course Dewey was the guy it was all about because he was the first person in the world to play the Elvis record, Parnell said.
It was a record many say started Rock ‘n Roll and that history is why filmmaker Mike McCarthy wants these old studios preserved and turned into a museum.
“It’s about saving Memphis history, radio history, Rock ‘n Roll history and American history,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, along with promoter Rachel Hurley of Kangaroo, a friend of MTV, and the online music fundraiser, Pledgemusic.com, is producing a video to help raise money for the project, “This room needs to be excavated just as it is and taken downstairs to the lobby and put back together again so that tourists, people hundreds of years from now, can come in and observe this room.”
A Memphis development group led by Terry Lynch now owns the Chisca.
The group plans to turn the Chisca into 150 apartments that could also house the museum.
“We just don’t want to see it get thrown in the dumpster and done away with because a lot of people want to preserve it,” Lynch said.
It’s an effort to preserve the history of Memphis being the birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll and how one radio station studio shared that creation with the world.