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Just Walkin' In the Rain

  • Eric M. Wolfson, Director
  • Eric M. Wolfson & Jay Warner, Producer

About the Project

In 1943 Johnny Bragg was sentenced to a life sentence for rape at Nashville’s Tennessee State Penitentiary. Poor, black, uneducated and innocent, Johnny found solace in music when he joined a group of convicts who passed their time singing spirituals in the prison yard and christened them the Prisonaires.

Ten years later a progressive lawyer named Frank Clement was elected governor. Clement had radical plans to reform the state’s penal system and appointed his close friend, James Edwards, warden of Tennessee’s maximum prison facility. When Edwards heard the Prisonaires sing in the prison chapel he saw in them an opportunity to put a face on the Governor’s plans for a new era in rehabilitation. The Prisonaires began to sing all over the state, eventually catching the ear of Sam Philips at Sun Records, who approached the Warden for permission to bring the Prisonaires to Memphis and record their act. The group was escorted to the recording studio by armed guards, where they laid down a song, written by Johnny, called, “Just Walkin’ in the Rain.”

Just Walkin’ in the Rain is a dramatic examination of the power of music, the nature of freedom, and the politics of race.