Memphis radio legend Cap'n Pete, the alter-ego of WEVL-FM radio deejay Dee Henderson, was found shot to death at his Southwest Memphis home on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008 at the age of 72. Henderson's body was discovered by his grandson; pending an autopsy, police are suspecting foul play.
As reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Henderson hosted his blues program, "Cap'n Pete's Blues Cruise," on WEVL 89.9 FM every Friday night for 26 years, and he showed no signs of slowing down at the time of his death.
Henderson was born in the Mississippi Delta as a sharecropper's son, working the fields on a plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He fell in love with blues music through artists like Sonny Boy Williamson II and Pinetop Perkins, sneaking away from his work in the cotton fields as a boy to listen to them on the radio out of Helena, Arkansas. When Pinetop came to the station in 2005, Dee told him, "I got many whippins as a boy because of you, Mr. Perkins!" remembers station manager Judy Dorsey.
When Henderson heard that WEVL-FM was playing blues music, Henderson bought a rooftop antenna so that he could hear the station better, says Dorsey, quoted by the Commercial Appeal. One day he called up the deejay to talk about seeing Muddy Waters perform live, which subsequently led to an invitation to the station and, later, his own program. According to friends, Henderson was proud to have won a "Keeping the Blues Alive" award from The Blues Foundation in 1992 for his commitment to blues music.
As big a part of Memphis as Beale Street and blues music, Dee Henderson's voice will be missed by blues fans and WEVL listeners. However, Dorsey says that WEVL has an archive of Blues Cruise shows going back several years, and the station plans on airing "The Best of Cap'n Pete's Blues Cruise" in his time slot, Friday 9 pm-midnight, on most Friday nights starting on Friday, July 26th. Check with the WEVL-FM website for more photos and memories of Cap'n Pete, and be sure to sign the guestbook!