CLASSICS - PART FOUR
(In Memory of Johnny Bragg who left us on September 1, 2004)
"Just Walkin' In The Rain"
by The Prisonaires
on Sun 186
released in 1953
Above: Circa 1953 photo of The Prisonaires. (L-R) Ed Thurman (tenor), Johnny Bragg (lead tenor), John Drue (tenor), William Stewart (baritone, guitar), and Marcell Sanders (bass). WSOK in Nashville was the first radio station where these Tennessee State Prison inmates were allowed to perform.
Above: Photo of Johnny Bragg (with yours truly) from 2001 U.G.H.A. Hall of Fame Tribute Ceremony in New Jersey. Johnny and The Prisonaires were inducted that year.
Above: Label for Sun 186 recorded on June 1, 1953 and released on July 8, 1953. The Prisonaires had four releases on the Sun label (1953-54). Bragg, Thurman, Drue, and Stewart went on to perform with The Marigolds/Solotones on Excello (1955-56).
Click on an option below to listen to "Just Walkin' In The Rain" by The Prisonaires using RealPlayer. [Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]
When five self-trained Tennessee State Prison convicts waxed a cool disc called "Just Walking In The Rain," the Prisonaires became a nation-wide sensation. Their sweet ballad has already sold a quarter-of-a-million copies.
The story of the group's success as artists, however, is not nearly so staggering as the story of five cons who can leave prison just about any time they please. You see, in order to maintain their popularity, the boys have to go beyond the gates of the state prison. Since they began recording almost a year ago, they have breathed free air 75 times to make the scene at television, school, radio and recording engagements. Although three of them are 20-year men and will never be up for parole, Warden James E. Edwards feels the group can do a great deal to help convict rehabilitation.
The Prisonaires were first heard over WSOK in Nashville, Tennessee, and have appeared in some of the town's finest hotels and night spots. They offer a repertoire of R&B, pop, hillbilly and spiritual songs.
As we have said, the Prisonaires are a five-man organization. William Stewart, thirty-year-old guitarist-baritone, has been a convict since he reached his seventeenth birthday. Stewart is perhaps one of the best examples of the warden's rehabilitation program. Despite his confinement, he is setting a fine example for his eight children. In addition to his excellent musical contribution to the Prisonaires, William Stewart has developed into a talented photographer and movie projectionist.
Soloist for the group is Johnny Bragg, who has been behind bars a year longer than Stewart. Johnny is not sure of his real age, but thinks that he has just turned twenty-seven. Under the law he is not eligible for parole.
Thirty-six year old Edward L. Thurman is the tenor for the group. Ed is the quiet, reserved type, somewhat on the religious side. At one time this man attended college and now heads the Bible study group in the prison.
Handsome tenor of the Prisonaires is John E. Drue, who also doubles as their master of ceremonies. When he is not attending to his singing obligations, John acts as personal chauffeur for Warden Edwards.
Despite the seriousness of the crimes that put the Prisonaires behind bars, they usually travel with only one guard when they are outside of the gates. They drive an automobile that was originally purchased for them by the deputy warden.
Warden Edwards is particularly proud of the fact that the boys have never tried any type of escape whatsoever during the many occasions they have been on the outside. It is a standing joke around the prison that the group has actually had difficulty getting back inside after one particularly successful engagement. It seems that the audience enjoyed their performance so much that they tried to get the boys away from their guard. The fans screamed for more, and amid all the tearing and screaming, the boys became separated from their armed escort. However, they did not let Warden James down. His faith in them was justified, and the next morning the Prisonaires were again behind bars.
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