The true story of a 1970s soul music group that was founded and recorded albums behind bars.
Serving time in prison in 1968, teenager Reginald Haynes decided to start a singing group as a way to try to focus on the positive during his incarceration. By 1970, his group, The Escorts, were performing for inmates, staff, and visitors, unexpectedly gaining the attention of seasoned Motown producer, George Kerr, who proposed working with the group to record the first album behind prison walls. After years of red tape, they succeeded, and The Escorts hit the charts, eventually releasing two albums before Haynes’ story took an unexpected turn. Producer Christopher Black, a lover of classic soul, gathered director Corbett Jones and producers Anna Rau and Josiah Bultema to explore the past and the present of the group, now known as The Legendary Escorts, against the backdrop of late 20th century African American history – from civil rights to soul music, institutionalized racism to penal reform.
The filmmakers recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for $30,000 in production funding. With just under a month to go, they’d welcome additional support. Those interested in learning more about the project may also check out their website.
As regular readers of this site know by now, I’m generally not a big fan of music docs, but the story of Haynes and The Legendary Escorts promises to explore deeper issues, becoming more than just a glorified concert film. The group has a great backstory, attempting to use prison time to truly rehabilitate themselves and spread a positive message. Intersecting with the topsy-turvy world of entertainment, the Escorts hoped to show others the redemptive power of second chances, but true underdogs, they faced an uphill battle. While achieving a level of celebrity in the early ’70s, and still remembered by fans, the group has the potential of connecting with a whole new generation that could gain inspiration and insight from their history, whether viewers are soul music fans or not.