Music | September 3, 2017 5:00 am

Eddie Rocco’s Dynamic Images of the Early Days of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rarely seen photographs documented the action and movement of rock's pioneers.

Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
The Trenier Twins (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)

Eddie Rocco took pictures from the 1950s to the early 1960s for rock magazines with a singular focus on the physicality of this new muscial genre. Or, as The New York Times Lens blog, put it: “to let the good times roll.”

Avoiding the era’s classic brooding pose look, Rocco’s eye followed the action: jumping, swinging, tapping, singing. In a profession that was still finding its way, he set a standard for images that capture the “exhilaration of being in that moment,” writes the Lens Blog.

Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
The Trenier Twins (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)

Though Rock ‘n’ Roll was here to stay, the magazines and clubs that Rocco worked for were not. Most of his photographs went unseen until 1997, when Miriam Linna and Billy Miller of Kicks Books and Norton Records tracked him down and published The Great Lost Photographs of Eddie Rocco.

His photographs from Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club in Dallas shortly before the shooting of John F. Kennedy show a man that looks like Lee Harvey Oswald. Rocco thought that this made the pictures incredibly valuable, but ultimately, nothing came of it. He subsequently sued Life magazine, though, claiming that they accepted his negatives but neither published nor returned them.

Following this experience, Rocco vowed to “never again work for American publications.” He shot for European magazines in the 1970s but ended his days in Los Angeles.

Check out the unbridled enthusiasm of his photos below.

Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
R & B singer Eskew Reeder Jr.—known by his stage name, Esquerita—was a strong influence on Little Richard, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Early Rock ‘n’ Roll crooner Dion with Jill Akridge (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Legendary singer and performer Sammy Davis Jr. with Ruth Brown at Club Oasis in Los Angeles. (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Cab Calloway at Club Oasis (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Johnny Otis (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Chubby Checker, who rode up the charts on his ‘Twist’ hits, giving photographer Eddie Rocco a dance lesson. (Eddie Rocco courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Chubby Checker meets the Rock duo Jan and Dean (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Famed nightclub, gospel, and pop singer Della Reese with comedian Redd Foxx. (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)
Birth of Rock 'n'' Roll
Self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the Blues’ Dinah Washington (Eddie Rocco/Courtesy Kicks Books)