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Houston Matters

Author Resurrects The Lost Voices Of Texas Jailhouse Music

In her book, Texas Jailhouse Music, Caroline Gnagy tells the stories of musicians inside Texas prisons in the 1920s and 1930s.


Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public Media


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Many incarcerated Texas inmates in the 1920s and 1930s learned musical instruments and performed in musical groups as a part of a prison rehabilitation program.

They were behind bars in places like Huntsville, Brazoria, and Sugar Land, but their music was often heard around the county on a radio show called Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls, which aired for many years on WBAP radio in Fort Worth.

Their stories are told in the book called Texas Jailhouse Music: A Prison Band History by Caroline Gnagy.

Back in 2016, she told Michael Hagerty about the prison music initiative, which started as a public relations tactic.