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Just Walkin' in the Rain: The True Story of the Prisonaires - The Convict Pioneers of R and B and Rock and Roll
     

Just Walkin' in the Rain: The True Story of the Prisonaires - The Convict Pioneers of R and B and Rock and Roll

by Jay Warner
 

The cold steel slam of a cell door. The soul-crushing fate of a life in prison with no possibility of parole for a crime you didn't commit. Such were the prospects facing Johnny Bragg, a humble musician from rural Tennessee who led a life that reads like a novel. Johnny and his fellow inmates in the 1950's-era R&B music group the Prisonaires had four strikes

Overview

The cold steel slam of a cell door. The soul-crushing fate of a life in prison with no possibility of parole for a crime you didn't commit. Such were the prospects facing Johnny Bragg, a humble musician from rural Tennessee who led a life that reads like a novel. Johnny and his fellow inmates in the 1950's-era R&B music group the Prisonaires had four strikes against them. They were poor, uneducated, imprisoned, and Black. They were also largely innocent of their crimes. Their gut-wrenching story is one of courage in the face of impossible odds, and salvation amidst the harsh realities of racial injustice and prison brutality.

Championed by then Tennessee governor Frank Clement as an example of the possibility of prison reform, and asked to sing at the Governor's Mansion, the Prisonaires were more than just pioneers who built the foundation of modern R&B. Behind the soulful tenor of their leader, Johnny Bragg, the group was living proof that anyone can survive and overcome nightmarish adversity.

Just Walkin' in the Rain is a book for all audiences who want to delve into one of the most inspiring chapters in musical history. You'll read how Elvis was influenced by the group's amazing sound. You may be stunned to discover that Johnny Bragg wrote the legendary song "Just Walkin' in the Rain" and the Hank Williams classic, "Your Cheatin' Heart."

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 1943, 16-year-old Johnny Bragg was sentenced to six consecutive life terms in the Tennessee State Prison for raping his girlfriend. Rather than wither in anger, the teenager joined the prison's gospel group, the Prisonaires, and wrote the hits "Just Walkin' in the Rain" and "Rolling Stone." (None other than Elvis Presley was a fan of the group's vocal style.) Warner, a Grammy Award-winning music publisher and author of The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups, 1940-1990, relates Bragg's tale with sensitivity. Most intriguing is his coverage of Bragg's relationship with progressive white prison warden James Edwards and former Governor of Tennessee Frank Clement, who pardoned Bragg in 1959. The two officials unabashedly believed that rehabilitation was in everyone's best interest, and Bragg's story demonstrates why. Recommended for music libraries, especially those in the South, as well as social science collections.--William G. Kenz, Minnesota State Univ., Moorhead Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The moving and mind-boggling story of Tennessee jailbird harmonizers Johnny Bragg and the Prisonaires, from music impresario and author Warner (Billboard's Book of American Singing Groups, not reviewed). Bragg emerged from dire circumstances and poverty in Nashville to march straight into prison. The year was 1943, and Warner strongly suggests that the charges (six rapes) were trumped up against the illiterate black teenager in what was at the time a routine way for southern lawmen to clear their books of unsolved crimes. Bragg got 594 years. In the slammer, he joined a gospel group to help mitigate the boredom, the ugliness, and the violence of prison life. His tenor was glorious, and singing restored some of his dignity. Neatly braiding story strands involving music, religion, and politics, Warner explains in homey prose how the election of progressive Tennessee governor Frank Clement, who wanted to prove that men could overcome their errors and do good, helped alleviate Johnny's situation. The Prisonaires played at churches, clubs, all the way up to the governor's mansion. They recorded a number of songs, including the hit single"Just Walkin' in the Rain." Finally, Johnny got paroled, 15 years after he received his life sentence. It would be nice to report that he got a singing contract and all due royalties, but Warner goes on to report that what Johnny got instead was another (evidently) bum rap and another 10 years before he was released. He continued to sing thereafter, but his main gigs were at burial services. He still sings today, having married and attained a measure of security, as well as an unexpected old age. Johnny is quite the storyteller, and Warner makes good useofsome terrific anecdotal material about Elvis, an interesting claim regarding Hank Williams's"Your Cheatin' Heart," and Bragg's reflections on his strange life. Living proof of the healing power of music. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580631402
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
02/01/1901
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.46(h) x 0.99(d)

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Meet the Author

Jay Warner is a six-time Grammy Award winning music publisher and writer. A devoted musical historian, he is the author of Billboard's Book of American Singing Groups and How to Have Your Hit Song Published. He resides in Los Angeles.

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