Johnny Bragg, 79, the last surviving member of a singing quintet of Tennessee State Penitentiary inmates whose R & B music helped start Sam Phillips's Sun Records and influenced Elvis Presley, died early yesterday at the Imperial Manor Convalescent Center in Madison after a long battle with cancer.
Johnny Bragg, the leader of the Prisonaires, , died of cancer in Nashville on Wednesday. He was 79.
In 1953, with a guard and trustee driver in tow, the Prisonaires traveled to Memphis to record Just Walkin' in the Rain for Sun Records.
Under Clement, the Prisonaires routinely performed for dignitaries and celebrities at the governor's mansion, including President Harry Truman and Elvis Presley.
The group's members changed, but Bragg, who served time on charges including rape and shoplifting, was a mainstay with his tenor voice.
Former Gov. Frank Clement touted the Prisonaires as part of his prison reform effort, citing them as examples of rehabilitation.
From the biography "Careless Love":
March 8 1961: Elvis stopped for 45 min at Tennessee State Prison, where Johnny Bragg was incarcerated for a parole violation. Elvis toured various workshops, prison dining hall, death house and spoke briefly with Braggs, asking him if he needed a lawyer or if there was anything at all he could do for him.
Source: Various / Updated: Sep 3, 2004