“The Prisonaires” Became Recording Stars While Still in Prison.
One of the coolest things about Sam Phillips owner of Sun Records, was that if you had a couple dollars, you could make a record. Sam wanted to make the music recording business open to everybody, regardless of race. A good example are “The Prisonaires” a group pf men whose permanent residence was the Kentucky State Prison.
The group was led by Johnny Bragg, in prison for rape, Ed Thurman, William Stewart, and Marcell Sanders all in for murder, and John Drue for larceny. Johnny Bragg and fellow inmate Robert Riley wrote “Just Walkin in the Rain’” which sold 250,000 copies. and later became a massive hit for Johnnie Ray.
Even though they were in prison, they were able to perform at VFW clubs, churches, and even on TV, providing an armed guard from the prison accompanied them. The Prisonaires had thousands of fans, sold many records, and were in popular demand during the early to mid fifties.