1955 Color Photo from The Louisiana Hayride

Scotty, Sonny Trammel, Elvis and Bill at the Lousiana Hayride January 22, 1955
Photo Nick Gulli courtesy JohnGriswold.com

Recently I was searching for something online and came across this picture. At first I thought that someone had taken one of Joey Kent's photos from the Louisiana Hayride Archives and colorized it. I posted about it in a few Elvis newsgroups and even sent it to Scotty, but Joey said he has never seen that one before. In fact most people haven't and it created quite the stir.

I emailed John S. Griswold, the contact on the site where the picture was. John is a professional event photographer in Colorado.  Apparently John's stepsons' grandfather, Nick Gulli, shot it with 35mm color slide film back in 1955. Joey Kent has several photos from the same night and almost the same vantage point and he believes the date to be January 22, 1955. John said Nick snuck up 20 rows, kneeled down, took a "shot in the dark" and got lucky. One shot, no mic in the mouth, great exposure.

Color photography at that time was generally confined to use in news correspondence. Though as early as 1945 Kodachrome color slide photography was beginning to get popular with amateur photographers.1 This is probably the only color photo in existence of the bands performance at the Louisiana Hayride and definitely the earliest.

Scotty, Sonny Elvis and Bill January 22, 1955
Photo courtesy of Louisiana Hayride Archives - J. Kent

"Back in 1954 and the early part of 1955 Elvis was often backed at the Louisiana Hayride by Sonny Tremmel on steel-guitar and Leon Post on piano or by Jimmy Day on steel-guitar and Floyd Cramer on piano. Drummers were not so popular in country-music so D.J. Fontana sat behind the curtain playing his drums. It wasn't until the end of 1955 that he moved in front of the curtain at the Hayride. Joey Kent's Hayride-book mentions that on that date, January 22, 1955, Sonny Trammel was backing Elvis for the first time that year."2

The photo gives a great sense of the flamboyant colors worn by Elvis at the time, the instruments and a whole new depth to the colors on stage there. John said the 35mm slide is un retouched and has been sitting in a safe deposit box for 30 years. Prints are made from a 30 megabyte scan of the slide and he makes 8x10 prints available for sale. The proceeds currently are split between Nick and John's son's college fund but if they sell enough of them they hope to donate a portion to the Children's Hospital in Denver.

Scotty, Sonny, Elvis and Bill  (cropped) January 22, 1955
Photo Nick Gulli courtesy of John Griswold.com

I've been advised that even though they may own the copyright to the photo, EPE, Inc. has a copyright to the image of Elvis, so legally to sell reprints they'll need an agreement. They understand that most people like John don't intend harm and will just have him get under an agreement so they know how/where the image is used. Hopefully this will happen and John can continue to offer this rare photo to fans.

James V. Roy
June 9, 2006

1 courtesy Wikipedia
2 courtesy Brian Petersen

You can read more about the bands history at the Louisiana Hayride here and about Scotty's return there in 1994 here

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.


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