New Feature Film in Development
Shout! Studios, TwentyOne14 Media, McGhee Entertainment, and producers Sean Fernald and Cass Paley have acquired exclusive rights from the estate of Johnny Bragg to develop, finance, and produce a narrative feature film about the extraordinary true story of doo-wop artist Bragg and his group The Prisonaires, who achieved fame while incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. The announcement was made today by Shout’s founders and CEOs Bob Emmer and Garson Foos, Quincy Newell, founder and CEO of TwentyOne14 Media, Sean Fernald, Cass Paley; and Doc McGhee and Lynn Barstow of McGhee Entertainment.
The Untitled feature will track the true story of Johnny Bragg, who in 1943 was wrongfully sentenced to six consecutive 99 year sentences at the age of 17 for crimes he did not commit. While in prison, his unique singing style caught the attention of the new warden, who had the novel idea to have Bragg’s prison doo-wop band, The Prisonaires, travel under armed guard, to record some demos by his longtime friend Sam Phillips who had recently established a record company in Memphis called Sun Records. Based on the success of one of their songs, “Just Walkin’ In The Rain,” Bragg and his singing group inspired the Governor of Tennessee to tour The Prisonaires around the state as models of prison reform. Their popularity would soon earn them day passes from prison to perform weekly radio shows, tour the state and even perform at the Governor’s Mansion for VIPs (including Elvis Presley)! Bragg’s original song “Just Walkin’ In The Rain” went on to sell 250,000 records. The attention brought on by his music helped shine a light on Bragg’s wrongful conviction and its racial implications, which eventually led to a full pardon.
The producers are Bob Emmer, Garson Foos, Sean Fernald, Cass Paley, Doc McGhee, Quincy Newell, Lynn Barstow, and Jordan Fields.
“This amazing story is a testament to the inspiring resilience of art and talent even under the most punishing conditions. We are thrilled to work with such distinguished partners to bring the story of Bragg and his Prisonaires to the screen,” stated Shout’s Emmer.
“This is a necessary story, even an essential one. We want to invite audiences to heed its implications and allow this small but important piece of history to inform, inspire and change hearts and minds,” stated Newell.
Producer Fernald noted, “It’s painful to imagine how Johnny Bragg must have felt facing the soul-crushing fate of a life in prison with no possibility of parole for a crime he didn’t commit. His gut-wrenching story is one of courage in the face of impossible odds, and salvation amidst the harsh realities of racial injustice and prison brutality.” Producer Paley added “Johnny Bragg is living proof that anyone can survive and overcome nightmarish adversity.”
“After managing the careers of Diana Ross, James Brown, Issac Haes, CeCe Winans, Phyllis Hyman and Darius Rucker I saw how the industry could treat people of color, but with their talent and music they could unite people. This is a project that has lingered with me since the day Sean and Cass walked in my office. It’s a powerful story that must be told,” stated McGhee.