Archive for Leadbelly

Prison Closing Blues

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2011 by 30daysout

The Central Unit in Sugar Land is now closed. (Photo by Justin Dehn/Texas Tribune)

Here’s a new one: in Texas, we’re shutting down a prison. Not because there aren’t enough inmates – no, they have shut down one of the state’s oldest prisons because they want to turn the property into a shopping center.

Texas is looking for ways to save money and shutting the Central Unit in Sugar Land will save about $12 million a year. Texas bought the prison property in 1908 from Imperial Sugar, the company for which Sugar Land was named. The current prison, built in 1932, housed more than 1,000 inmates at times.

It was originally called the Imperial State Prison Farm, and one of its most famous occupants was Huddie Ledbetter, who was imprisoned there in 1918 or so. That’s where the singer known as Leadbelly most likely learned the traditional song “Midnight Special.” Leadbelly added some lyrics and it’s a classic today.

So today let’s spin some jail songs.

MP3: “Midnight Special” by Leadbelly

MP3: “Life In Prison” by the Byrds

MP3: “I Fought The Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four

MP3: “San Quentin” (live) by Johnny Cash

MP3: “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard

MP3: “Prison Song” by Graham Nash

MP3: “Christmas In Prison” by John Prine

MP3: “County Jail” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “Ellis Unit One” by Steve Earle

MP3: “Penetentiary Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins w/Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee

MP3: “Jailhouse Rock” by ZZ Top

MP3: “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

The Midnight Special

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2009 by 30daysout
leadbelly

Leadbelly

Sugar Land is a booming town located in the grassy flatlands just west of Houston, Texas.  Those who don’t live there just speed along the freeway, past the city’s strip centers and restaurants on their way down the Gulf Coast.  In that respect, nothing much has changed in just about 100 years –  back in the 1920s one didn’t go to Sugar Land unless you had to.

Walter Boyd surely didn’t want to go there in 1918; he soon found that the sugar plantations and sugar refinery may have given Sugar Land its name, but the town was best known as the location of a Texas prison.   Boyd killed one of his relatives in a fight over a woman, and he was sentenced to 35 years in the penitentiary.  Because he was black, Boyd was sent to the segregated Harlem prison just west of the bigger Central Unit where the white prisoners were kept.  Jailers soon discovered that Walter Boyd wasn’t even the prisoner’s real name – it was actually Huddie Ledbetter.

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