The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has opened its newest photography exhibit, 1950s Radio in Color: The Lost Photographs of Cleveland Deejay Tommy Edwards. The exhibit features more than 30 images of 1950s music, film and television stars, including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and some surprises like Michael Landon and Henry Fonda – all in glorious Ektachrome color.
Songwriter, musician and music historian Christopher Kennedy discovered Edwards’ photography collection during his research into the long-lost rock and roll film The Pied Piper of Cleveland, which is rumored to contain some of the earliest footage of Elvis Presley. Kennedy’s discovery resulted in his 2011 book 1950s Radio in Color, which features more than 200 images from Edwards’ collection.
As a prominent deejay at WERE in Cleveland, Edwards enjoyed unprecedented access to rock , pop and country music’s biggest stars. Capturing artists as they visited WERE’s studios to plug their latest record, or at the many high-school sock hops that he presented between 1955 and 1960, Edwards shot more than 1,700 slides.
Tommy Edwards may never have imagined his photographs would someday be seen in a gallery. Fortunately, history has finally caught up with him, allowing us to feel the wonder and excitement he must have felt every day while witnessing a cultural revolution. Through his camera’s eye, the stars became mere mortals and at the same time somehow even grander than before. The exhibit, in the Baker Gallery of the Museum’s Main Exhibit Hall, will run through the summer.