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WWOZ

December 17, 2013

Last night I turned on WWOZ for a bit. Now if you don’t know what WWOZ is, you should learn. It is a great radio station out of New Orleans that, thanks to the wonders of the interwebs, the Yankee likes of yours truly can now partake in from the comfort of his own kitchen.

And why should you listen to WWOZ? Because in just a few minutes of listening, I came across the following. First (actually, I think this song came second, but never mind all of that), they played a song by the Asylum Street Spankers called “Beer” that contains the immortal line “Tripping on acid makes you flaccid.” Right? Hard to beat that one. Here’s the whole shebang:

Second (actually, first), they played a song by a group called the Prisonaires. That’s an interesting name, isn’t it? Well, here’s a bit of their story, courtesy of Sun Records:

As their name suggests, this doo-wop group was formed while each member was in the State Penitentiary, Tennessee, USA. The founding member was lead singer Johnny Bragg (John Henry Bragg, 6 May 1925, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 1 September 2004, Madison, Tennessee, USA). The group was paraded around a variety of receptions and civic functions as demonstration of the jail’s enlightened rehabilitation programme, where they played a mix of blues, gospel and pop songs under armed guard. New warden James E. Edwards then arranged for two talent scouts from Sam Phillips’ Sun Records to see the group.

They were subsequently driven down to Memphis in June 1953 to record a song written by Bragg and fellow inmate Robert Riley, “Just Walkin’ In The Rain”. The record took hold first on radio and then became a major seller, moving over 250,000 copies, despite a competing version from Johnny Ray that sold eight times that amount. They gradually became high-status figures in Tennessee, and never betrayed the trust placed in them by trying to escape their guards on their numerous forays outside the prison. A second single followed in August 1953, the highly spiritual “My God Is Real”, followed by “I Know” and its autobiographical b-side, “A Prisoner’s Prayer”. While recording it they made the acquaintance of Elvis Presley, who later visited them in prison.

And a trailer for a documentary:

Well, how about that? Who knew? There you have it. Two reasons (of many) to listen to WWOZ.

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