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The Prisonaires & The Marigolds Only Believe...Unissued And Rare Nashville..

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1-CD-Album Digipac (4-plated) with comprehensive booklet, 28 tracks. Playing time approx. 69 mns.... more

The Prisonaires & The Marigolds: Only Believe...Unissued And Rare Nashville..

1-CD-Album Digipac (4-plated) with comprehensive booklet, 28 tracks. Playing time approx. 69 mns.

his exciting CD-Album reveals a completely unknown chapter in the already implausible - though true - story of the Prisonaires, the prison inmates from Nashville who got onto Sun Records in Memphis in 1953 and whose best song, Just Walkin' In The Rain, became an international pop hit for Johnny Ray. In this CD you'll find: eleven astonishing songs from an unissued 'concert' recorded at the Tennessee State Penitentiary - featuring several Prisonaires members never heard until now! Fascinating spoken introductions to the songs by second tenor Alfred Brooks - and a message from the penitentiary warden Lynn Bomar! Six alternative versions of songs recorded for Sun Records! All eleven vocal group tracks by The Solotones and the Marigolds (renamed versions of the Prisonaires led by Johnny Bragg). A comprehensive booklet by Martin Hawkins containing many new interviews and insights into the story of the Prisonaires, one of the first R&B vocal groups to record and have hits in the South. It explains the background to the unissued recordings, and contains many rare and fascinating photos and illustrations.

The new Prisonaires titles reveal an even wider range of vocal harmonies and musical abilities, influences and styles than the Sun recordings. The Prisonaires rock with Caldonia and Bony Moronie, they sing sincere versions of Suppertime and Gentle Hands, they reprise their best-known songs including Just Walkin' In The Rain, and they make fun with The Boastin' Texan and other titles.

Get this CD-Album and you'll hear the Prisonaires as never before; you'll have completed your Prisonaires collection; and you'll have the complete story of the Marigolds/Solotones. This Album is one of three discs telling the complete story of the Prisonaires and of their lead singer, Johnny Bragg. The early part of the tale has been told in our CD-Album of Sun recordings, BCD 15523: The Prisonaires - 'Just Walkin' In The Rain'. This CD, 'Only Believe...' tells the middle part of the story. Watch out later for our planned CD 'World Of Make Believe,' containing all the rare and unissued recordings by Johnny Bragg as a solo vocalist.

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Prisonaires, The - Only Believe...Unissued And Rare Nashville.. CD 1
01 When The Saints Go Marching In Prisonaires, The
02 In The Garden Prisonaires, The
03 Bony Moronie Prisonaires, The
04 Suppertime Prisonaires, The
05 Caldonia Prisonaires, The
06 Gentle Hands Prisonaires, The
07 Just Walkin' In The Rain Prisonaires, The
08 The Boastin' Texan Prisonaires, The
09 Message From Prison Warden Lynn Bomar Prisonaires, The
10 A Prisoner's Prayer Prisonaires, The
11 Only Believe Prisonaires, The
12 Se±or Siskin Prisonaires, The
13 Rollin' Stone Marigolds, The
14 Why Don't You Marigolds, The
15 Don't Say Tomorrow Marigolds, The
16 Rollin' Stone (alternative take) Marigolds, The
17 Front Page Blues Solotones, The
18 Pork And Beans Solotones, The
19 Two Strangers Solotones, The
20 Love You - Love You - Love You Solotones, The
21 Juke Box Rock'N'Roll Solotones, The
22 It's You Darling, It's You Solotones, The
23 Baby Please Prisonaires, The
24 What'll You Do Next Prisonaires, The
25 There Is Love In You Prisonaires, The
26 Rockin' Horse Prisonaires, The
27 Two Strangers Prisonaires, The
28 Lucy You Know I Want You Prisonaires, The
The Prisonaires A ccording to prison records, Johnny Bragg was a badass kid, born in... more
"The Prisonaires & The Marigolds"

The Prisonaires

According to prison records, Johnny Bragg was a badass kid, born in Nashville on January 18, 1926, and jailed on May 8th, 1943 on six counts of rape. According to Bragg, he was born on May 5, 1929 (the earlier date is his brother's birthdate, used because the city had no trace of his own birth), and the prison term was the result of a frame-up and terrible misunderstanding. "My troubles started when I was twelve years old," said Bragg cagily. "My friend was dating my girlfriend, we got to fighting, and she said I tried to rape her. While they had me, they put all these unsolved cases on me, told the peoples I was the one. Later some of them said they was wrong, and wanted to clear their consciences before they died. A lady goes to my church, and she shakes her head and says, 'We sure did you wrong, John.'"

 

Once inside, Bragg joined a gospel group with Ed Thurman, William Stewart, Clarence Moore and another whom Bragg recalled only as Sam. They argued, and Bragg formed another group, the Prisonaires. He recruited 36 year-old Thurman (99 years for murder) as manager, and 30 year-old Stewart (99 years for murder) as music director. Stewart, who also played guitar, had been inside since his seventeenth birthday. They were joined in the early '50s by John Drue (3 years for larceny), and Marcell Sanders (1 to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter).

We recount in the song notes how the Prisonaires came to be heard outside the prison walls, and how their first record, Just Walkin' In The Rain, became an unaccountable hit. After that, the sales of the Prisonaires' next three records dipped sharply. A fifth single was scheduled for release in the fall of 1954, but was never shipped. The group broke up. Drue and Sanders were released, followed by Stewart and Thurman. Paroling Thurman excited some controversy in the local press, "The people of Tennessee can only hope that the killers still behind bars are non singers," editorialized the Nashville Tennessean on April 29, 1955. Bragg re-formed the Prisonaires as the Marigolds with a new set of faces including Bobby Hebb's brother, Hal. Signed to Excello/Nashboro Records, they cut four singles.

Johnny Bragg was finally released in 1959, and recorded for Decca Records in Nashville while joining Robert Riley (the cowriter of Just Walkin' In The Rain) at Tree Music. He was back behind bars again the following year for robbery and attempted murder, charges that Bragg asserts were set-up. "A man whose name I can't say, said 'If that Bible totin' governor turns that nigger loose, I'll get him back inside even if I have to frame him,'" said Bragg darkly. "They charged me on three counts and finally got me on a charge of stealing $2.50—and I had all kinds of money. It was pitiful."  UPI reported that Bragg had indeed been indicted on charges of stealing $2.50, but that he had done so at gunpoint, whereupon two white women identified him as the man who had tried to attack them. One of the charges finally stuck, and Bragg went back inside in May 1960. In March 1961, Bragg was visited by Elvis Presley, confirming Bragg's lifelong contention that he met Presley at Sun. "He asked repeatedly," said Bragg, "Did I need a lawyer? Was there anything he could do for me?" Needing help so bad he could taste it, Bragg nevertheless declined. Upon his re-release seven years later, Bragg formed Elbejay Records in partnership with Raymond Ligon and Cyril Jackson, and recorded three singles.

Bragg's troubles didn't end upon his re-release, though. He was returned to prison for armed robbery of a liquor store and attempted murder of a security guard, and released on parole for the third time when the death of his wife left him a single parent. With his faith and health still more-or-less intact, he fared better than the other Prisonaires, all of whom died in varying degrees of indigence. The saddest case was that of William Stewart who died of alcohol poisoning in a cheap motel room in Florida.

The Prisonaires gained their moment of fame as a novelty act, but, as their work on this set and on Bear Family's supplementary volumes of Prisonaires and Johnny Bragg recordings, attests they easily transcended tawdry novelty appeal. Bragg's stilling lead tenor ranks alongside that of his idol, Bill Kenny of the Inkspots. The music they cut for Sun was quite unlike anything else on the label or anything else heard at that time. Sophisticated and polished, it lacked the rough edges that Sam Phillips cherished as much as it lacked the greasy, urban sound of then-contemporary doo-wop. The Prisonaires' sounds harked back to the 1940s, in other words the music that played when they went inside. Doo wop was the sound of teenagers singing of idealized love, cars, and hoped-for sexual encounters. On no level could the Prisonaires identify. But on Just Walking In The Rain Johnny Bragg laid aside the darkness within him and transcended fashion to produce one hauntingly beautiful performance.

(Colin Escott)

 

PRISONAIRES Just Walkin' In The Rain
Read more at: https://www.bear-family.com/prisonaires-just-walkin-in-the-rain.html
Copyright © Bear Family Records

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Tracklist
Prisonaires, The - Only Believe...Unissued And Rare Nashville.. CD 1
01 When The Saints Go Marching In
02 In The Garden
03 Bony Moronie
04 Suppertime
05 Caldonia
06 Gentle Hands
07 Just Walkin' In The Rain
08 The Boastin' Texan
09 Message From Prison Warden Lynn Bomar
10 A Prisoner's Prayer
11 Only Believe
12 Se±or Siskin
13 Rollin' Stone
14 Why Don't You
15 Don't Say Tomorrow
16 Rollin' Stone (alternative take)
17 Front Page Blues
18 Pork And Beans
19 Two Strangers
20 Love You - Love You - Love You
21 Juke Box Rock'N'Roll
22 It's You Darling, It's You
23 Baby Please
24 What'll You Do Next
25 There Is Love In You
26 Rockin' Horse
27 Two Strangers
28 Lucy You Know I Want You