Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Elvis and the Hotel Chisca

The Hotel Chisca doesn't look like much now, does it? All boarded up. There's a tree growing up there at the top. But back in the day, it was an elegant place!

Dewey Phillips broadcast his show from here. Sam Phillips (no relation) passed along a song Elvis had recorded, and Dewey Phillips played it. The teenagers swamped the station with phone calls asking that the song be played again. And again. It was played 17 times in a row! This is the song:

This was the first time Elvis was broadcast, and Rolling Stone is reported to consider this the first rock and roll song.

There's good news for the Chisca, and it sounds like renovation is in process, expected to be completed by the end of next year. They plan to turn it into apartments and have retail space on the ground floor.


  1. I may be losing my mind, which may more true than not, but I thought there was a TV show several years ago (about 10ish) that featured Memphis as the backdrop of the show. The hotel exterior was shown with the billboard do-hickey (technical term for not sure if that's what it's called) on top of the hotel still prominently in place. Shots of the top of the building and the sign overlooked the city, and you could see all the way to the river. Glad to read there is an interest to revitalize, rather than raze.

    1. Yes, you're right. I liked that show - -but not enough people did. It starred Jason Lee and Alfre Woodard and only lasted a year. It wasn't filmed in Memphis because of better tax incentives in New Orleans, but some of the external landmark-type and establishing shots were filmed here. It was interesting for Memphians who watched to look for discrepancies between dialog and place in the show and actual geography on the ground here. For example, in one episode they mention hearing the bell for one of the two drawbridges in town when in real life there are no drawbridges anywhere near here. It was fun :)