Music,  Rahway

Rahway State Prisons R&B Group Make An Appearance At Newark, New Jersey’s, Symphony Hall


By Rudy Johnson Special to the New York Times – February 18 1974

NEWARK, Feb. 17—The Escorts, seven elegantly dressed young men, brought down the house in Symphony Hall last night as the singing group that had started in the “big house in Rahway” gave their first full-fledged concert. Developing well enough to perform outside the institution and being accompanied by prison-guard escorts each time they did (the origin of their name), the group was heard and promoted by radio station WNJR and Alithia Records, Ltd., of North Bergen.

The Escorts’ album, “All We Need is Another Chance,” recorded in January 1973, has sold 310,000 copies. A second album, “Three Down and Four To Go,” is soon to be released. The latter title refers to the fact that three members have been released since the prison’s singing group was formed, while the others continue serving their sentences.

‘Nobody Has Left’

The three former prisoners are 26-year-old William Dugger and 24-year-old Reginald Haynes, both of whom were convicted of robbery, and Lawrence Franklin, 28, who was convicted of possessing narcotics.

“Nobody has left our group,” Mr. Franklin, a former insurance agent, noted with pride during a pause backstage. Our success shows that inmates can do well on the outside if they get a chance to bring out their creative talents.”

The four inmate Escorts— all robbery convicts—are Marion Murphy, 27; Robert Arrington, 26; Frank Heard, 27, and Steven L. Carter, 22, who was not granted release to perform with the group…William Douglas Quick, 26, of Newark, took his place.

At the concert, just the mention of the name Escorts evoked roaring approval from an audience of 2,000. The Escorts had received top billing and thus went on last.

Midway through their act, Mr. Arrington asked: “Are you on our side?” The affirmative answer rocked the hall.

The show’s producer, George Kerr of Alithia, said he was “fantastically pleased” with the group’s reception. He added that last night had been the first time the singers had performed with a live band. Lou Toby’s 12-piece band accompanied the Escorts and other acts, including Barbara Jean English, and the Gentle men and Their Ladies.

Plaques citing “outstanding achievement in rehabilitation” were presented to a representative of radio station WNJR and to Robert S. Hatrak, superintendent of Rahway Prison, by John Kralovich, co-president of Alithia Records.