1950s Radio in Color: The Lost Photographs of Deejay Tommy Edwards(Kent State University Press) is an extraordinary book on several levels. First there is the physical look of the book: it's an over-sized coffee table hardback that does full justice to the photos so beautifully reproduced therein. This brings us to the second point: the book is a priceless historical record of incredible candid photos taken by a man named Tommy Edwards. Who was he? Largely unknown today, Edwards was one of the top early deejays in the Cleveland Ohio market, where he helped make station WERE-AM a major force in popularizing the new music format known as rock 'n roll. Edwards had the foresight to photograph virtually every up-and-coming music star he was introduced to - and there were few who escaped his sphere of influence. Fate was unkind to Edwards and, due to a variety of reasons including personal problems, he faded from the influential position he held and ultimately ran a popular used record shop until his death in 1981. His photographs were presumed lost until this book's author Chris Kennedy uncovered the treasure trove and made them the basis for this book.
The number of iconic figures Edwards photographed in candid situations is remarkable. There's young Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Paul Anka, The Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Cash, The Big Bopper, Johnny Horton and many others. He also photographed young actors who had cut records such as Michael Landon and Tina Louise as well as iconic Hollywood stars who were promoting new films (Clark Gable, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, a bored Henry Fonda going through the motions of an interview). There are many "flash in the pan" musical acts and solo crooners who were destined for oblivion and these are among the most fascinating entries in the book. Kennedy, a true literary detective, even located elusive newsletter Tommy Edwards had sent out to rock and roll fans- and he reproduces them in this book.
The photos are elegantly presented in chronological order ending with a haunting photo of Edwards himself in his beloved record store.
Chris Kennedy has done yeoman work- and any fan of retro music and cinema owes him a great debt for salvaging the remarkable photographs of a very remarkable man.