The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

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The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

Post by rooster » Tue May 13, 2014 10:21 pm

The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

The Prisonaires were a group of convicted felons, serving time in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville. The members throughout the short career of The Prisonaires were:

Johnny Bragg (Lead - Rape x6, 99 years, later pardoned)
Edward Lee Thurman (Tenor - Murder, 99 years, later pardoned)
John Edward Drue Jr. (Tenor - Larceny, 1-3 years, later released)
William Stewart (Baritone, Guitar - Murder, 99 years, later pardoned)
Marcel Sanders (Bass - Involuntary Manslaughter, 1-5 years, later released)


According to legend, the Prisonaires were "discovered" by Joe Calloway, a producer for WSIX Radio station Nashville, TN, while he was at the prison setting up a broadcast. Calloway set up a broadcast featuring The Prisonaires and Music publisher, Red Wortham (Whom Johnny Bragg was selling songs to) sent the tape to Jim Bulliet (Wortham's cousin, owner of Bullet records & minority shareholder of Sun records), who in turn sent it to Sam Phillips of the Sun label. Phillips arranged things with the warden allowing The Prisonaires to come to the Sun label studio to record . All of their genuine Sun label records were released on both 45's and 78's with the same catalog numbers.

Sun 186
Baby Please/Just Walkin' In The Rain; 1953
The Prisonaires

("Baby Please" is the "A" side. "Just Walking In The Rain" was an almost immediate hit and out of town pressing plants were required to meet the demand. It is said that some original 1953 issues do not have push marks due to this. There are reportedly six known copies of this record pressed on red vinyl, the rest are on the usual black vinyl. Since the record was a hit, The Prisonaires got to tour Tennessee through the efforts of prison warden James Edwards and Tennessee Governor Frank Clement . A cover version by Johnny Ray was a big Pop hit in 1956. The Guitarist on the "A" side, "Baby Please" is Bluesman/One Man Band/Sun Studio Musician, Joe Hill Louis.)

Sun 189
My God Is Real/Softy And Tenderly; 1953
The Prisonaires
(The group's next record is not a hit, though they continue to tour Tennessee. Ike Turner plays Bass on "My God Is Real" and Piano on "Softly And Tenderly")

Sun 191
A Prisoner's Prayer/I Know; 1953
The Prisonaires

(Another disc that stiffed. Ike Turner is again present. On "A Prisoner's Prayer", Turner plays Electric Guitar. There are reportedly some copies of Sun 191 with "A Prisoner's Prayer" mistakenly pressed on both sides)

Sun 207
There Is Love In You/What'll You Do Next?; 1954
The Prisonaires

(The first three records were recorded at the Sun studio, 706 Union, Memphis Tennessee. This one was recorded at The Tennessee State Penitentiary. The Prisonaires managed to hang on until 1955, although they were no longer recording. Around that time, several group members were pardoned, paroled or released and Johnny Bragg recruited other prisoners to flesh out the group including Hal Hebb who according to some authorities was the brother of Bobby Hebb. For a short time the new group used the name, The Sunbeams, but never got to record as such.)

Excello 2057
Rollin' Stone/Why Don't You; 1955
The Marigolds

(With some new members, the group chose to change their name to The Marigolds and released this record on the Excello label. The new group had a #8 R&B hit in this record. "Rollin' Stone" was a big enough hit that it was covered and released in 1955 by The Cadets on Modern 960 and the Fontaine Sisters on the Dot 15370. This is NOT the Muddy Waters Song.)

Excello 2060
Pork And Beans/Front Page Blues; 1955
The Solotones

(For one release The Prisonaires/Marigolds are called The Solotones. Nothing happens with this release and subsequent releases are under the Marigolds name.)

Excello 2061
Love You - Love You - Love You/Two Strangers ; 1955
The Marigolds

Excello 2091
Juke Box Rock ' N ' Roll/It's You Darling, It's You; 1956
Johnny Bragg & The Marigolds

(For the final Marigolds release the label credits "Johnny Bragg And The Marigolds, possibly due to an intervening Johnny Bragg solo recording [Excello 2078; Foolish Me/Beyond The Clouds; 1956].)

In 1976, a half dozen Prisonaires Bootleg 45's were released. I include these for the unwary collector. These are NOT official releases.

Sun 511
I Wish/All Alone And Lonely; 1976
Sun 512
No More Tears/Don't Say Tomorrow; 1976
Sun 513
If I Were King/That Chick's Too Young To Fry; 1976
Sun 516
Rocking Horse/What A Fool; 1976
Sun 517
Lucille I Want You/Two Strangers; 1976
Sun 519
Dreaming Of You/Surleen; 1976
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RE: The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

Post by annaloog » Wed May 14, 2014 4:09 am

Interesting info, Curt. I found a nice, playable copy of Sun 191 for 99c at GW, 7 years ago ... the only Sun 78 I've come across in 45+ years of collecting.
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Sun 191 (1953)
A Prisoner's Prayer // I Know
Prisonaires
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RE: The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

Post by rooster » Wed May 14, 2014 4:23 am

That was a good buy, Pat. Always liked the look of the 78 label.


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RE: The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

Post by mackdaddyg » Wed May 14, 2014 12:38 pm

Thanks for posting this info, Rooster. Always a great read and plenty of things to learn.

The closest I've gotten to owning any Prisonaires material is a cd I purchased years ago. Great stuff! Now I need to dig it out and listen again.

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RE: The Prisonaires/Marigolds U.S. 78/45 Discography

Post by rooster » Thu May 15, 2014 12:29 am

Glad you got something out of it, Mack. Unlike Annaloog, I have never seen a Sun 78 in the wild, so i'm envious of him. I have come across a few prisonaires singles over the years. Most of them have looked unplayable. I have a copy of "Just Walking In The Rain", but it's only in "good" condition and I'm Probably being generous There :lol: Indeed, the only way for most people to get the prisonaires songs these days are on a Damn CD or itunes


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