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The unsung story of The Legendary Escorts is that of the musical group, formed behind bars in the early 70s at Rahway State Prison. It carries the weight and wisdom of both their tumultuous and celebratory experiences from the past decades up to modern day. Through their successes, trials, and tribulations, the storyline will explore the soul generation, civil rights movement, and penal reform from the inside.
Sampled by J DILLA (Donuts / Dont Cry) and PUBLIC ENEMY ( It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back / Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos)
The car door opens. Reginald Prophet Haynes, the founder of The Legendary Escorts, twists himself out of the car to plant two feet solidly on the ground. This was where it all started. An armed robbery on this very spot sent Reggie to serve his first seven-year prison sentence in 1968. In the midst of deplorable conditions and never-ending days, Reggie’s true self persevered and broke through – he began to sing in the yard and caught the attention of other inmates that wanted to harmonize.
Reggie waits as a garage door opens and reveals a cozy den with two men stand playing pool. Billy, an ex marine, and LaGrant, a retired police officer, partnered with Reggie in 1986 to keep the group alive. The three remaining members of the Legendary Escorts dive into shooting the breeze. While it’s clear both Billy and LaGrant have heard Reggie’s history countless times, they sit absorbing his narration, learning new details with each retelling. The conversation inevitably returns back to the beginnings of the Legendary Escorts, and how Reggie was transferred to the infamous Rahway Prison. It was here at an inmate variety show that the Escorts sound caught the attention of prolific record producer George Kerr.
After two years of correspondence spent convincing the warden, Kerr was allowed to bring a mobile recording studio to the prison and laid down the vocals for the first album “All We Need Is Another Chance” in just 9 hours. With their quality sound and unique story, The Escorts became a hit enjoying success on the Billboard Top Soul charts. A follow up album "3 Down 4 To Go" received similar success and a newly liberated Reggie was beginning to enjoy the view from the mountain top.
As momentum built and publicity grew, Reggie readied to go on tour for what would surely skyrocket his career to even greater heights, opening for Frank Sinatra. Unfortunately, he was dealt a devastating blow. Reggie was wrongly convicted of a second crime he did not commit and sent back to prison to serve another six-year sentence.
The tone in the room grows a bit somber. Billy speaks up “He was set up – wrongly convicted. The witnesses were coached and the jury was not allowed to know of his budding career as an entertainer, only of his affiliation with the Black Panther party.” Having seemingly lost everything, there was no singing during this time of Reggie’s life.
The next day the group enjoys a breakfast at IHOP. With each fan that approaches them, enormous grins spread across Reggie, Billy, and LaGrant’s faces. They’ve had countless fans over the years gush about their love for the group but the fans they meet that affect them the most are the ex-cons. The Legendary Escorts act as a beacon for thousands enduring their own trials and tribulations, and an inspiration on how to overcome and improve in their own lives.
Later across the dinner table Reggie leads grace, full of thanks for giving the group the strength they need through their recovery period. After a year of no performances and fighting illness, the group is ready to perform again and kick off their return with the release of a new album. They’re not sure what’s next for them: Will they return to the Billboard top charts? Will Reggie ever receive vindication for his unlawful imprisonment? There’s a lot on the table and high hopes for the future, however for now they’re simply happy to have another chance.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"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 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."
- Basil Tsiokos, full article @ what (not) to doc
"... there’s a lot more to this tale of faith, race, justice, injustice, perseverance, rebirth, and the power of music to shine a light into the darkest places.... For our part, we’re hooked."
- Andy Markowitz, full article @ MusicFilmWeb.com
As well as countless posts on the National R&B Society page, Soul Patrol newsletter, and even a retweet from Questlove of the Roots!
After thoroughly working through the budget, our crew decided that $30,000 was the bare minimum we could produce this project for. All funds will be entirely spent on production, ensuring a competent crew and fantastic cinematography to tell this compelling story. Costs will include camera rentals, lighting rentals, traveling costs, music licensing, etc.
An enormous thank you for stopping by our page, and an even bigger thank you for your generosity. We can't do this alone, and we're so grateful to have you on board.
- Chris, Anna, Corbett & Josiah