Charles Lee Guy, III

The Prisoner's Dream

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Charles Lee Guy, III was convicted of involuntary manslaughter at 16 and spent his years in prison practicing singing and playing guitar. He sent an unsolicited demo to Capitol Records, and producer Ken Nelson, sensing a potentially lucrative gimmick, signed Guy. His sole album, The Prisoner's Dream, was recorded in a prison auditorium with Joe Maphis on acoustic guitar. The cover illustration depicts Guy strumming his guitar behind prison bars, and nearly all of the selections are prison songs. Spade Cooley, who was in prison at the time for killing his wife, contributed an original composition, "Cold Gray Bars," but most of the songs are well-known ones like "Folsom Prison," "The Prisoner's Song," and "Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women." Guy is a competent but unremarkable vocalist who performs the songs with only Maphis' acoustic guitar for accompaniment. Nelson's liner notes describe at length the circumstances surrounding the recordings and blow some hot air about rehabilitation and providing an opportunity for a gifted inmate, but it is likely that Guy would have preferred to be a regular country singer than a prisoner on parade. Regardless, The Prisoner's Dream is an interesting predecessor to Johnny Cash's prison albums and an unusual entry in the annals of Capitol country.

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