Prisonaires – Baby Please b/w Just Walkin’ in the Rain

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Jack White has done it again. The vinyl pusher has joined forces with Sun Records to begin releasing a series of reissues from their legendary back catalog on his Third Man Records label. White has promised that this will be an ongoing partnership between the two labels. One of the three initial releases is the Prisonaires 45rpm 7” single “Baby Please” b/w “Just Walkin’ in the Rain.”

The Prisonaires were an African-American group consisting of five members, all prisoners of the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville, hence the band name. It’s been said that the felonious fivesome were greatly admired by Elvis, leading the King to even cover their hit single.

Originally released in 1953, “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” was Sun’s first real hit, and the short-lived band’s only success. Written by band/cellmates Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, the somber, slow jangling doo-wop driven tune recalls a simpler time where a broken heart left one to wander the streets in the rain while reminiscing of a lost love. It’s a beautifully arranged composition that is held together by a bluesy guitar waltz, but it’s the rising and falling of the various vocal harmonies that carries the song. Johnnie Ray recorded a more upbeat version of the single in 1956 and it pales in comparison to the Prisonaires, further emphasizing the beauty of the inmates’ command of their vocal palette.

The A-side of the single, “Baby Please,” penned by Riley, is a more lively love song kicked off by a somewhat aggressive guitar riff and a half-hearted yelp. Johnny Bragg confesses in the chorus, “I love you so, so, so much / my world is nothing without your touch.” The sweet sentiments are accentuated by the group’s doo-wop harmonizing, creating a romantic backdrop for Bragg’s vocals to flourish.

Johnny Bragg, John Drue, Marcel Sanders, William Stewart, and Ed Thurman, the five fellows who formed the Prisonaires, enjoyed an extremely brief singing career that allowed them to escape the penitentiary for a brief time to perform at the governor’s mansion and an elementary school. Wow, times have changed! White chose a good place to begin with his Sun Records reissue series. He’s given us a quick glimpse into a fairly obscure group, allowing us a moment to enjoy the simple sounds of a vocal group with a dubious origin. It’s a wonderful piece of vinyl. Keep up the good work, Jack.

On a quick note, it looks as though a documentary about the Prisonaires has been completed and is soon to be released. Exciting times.

May 25, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Albums. Leave a comment.