Josh White never served on a chain gang, but he had a whole other set of problems.
Listen to the lyrics of this song from Josh White and His Carolinians in 1941. Arrested on Monday, tried on Tuesday, sentenced on Wednesday, and on Thursday he’s… (song lyrics “chain gang boun’”)
White was persecuted as a suspected Communist during the McCarthy era. Not even his close friendship with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, godparents to his son, could protect him. He was blacklisted at the height of his popularity.
His career never recovered, but Josh White’s legacy lives on through his influence on other musicians. Legend has it Elvis Presley developed that famous hip swivel listening to a Josh White tune.