San Quentin's First Lady
Just released on the Heart of Texas Records label based in Brady, Texas, 'Leona Williams-San Quentin's First Lady' was originally recorded on January 1, 1976, in San Quentin State Prison with Merle Haggard's Strangers Band. This historic project has just been remastered and released on CD format for the very first time!! Brand new artwork has been created for this project including a photo of Leona and Merle Haggard as they reunited at the Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri, in 2004, for a special show! 'Leona Williams-San Quentin's First Lady' was the very first time that a woman recorded an album in a prison. The crowd goes wild as they hear the Legendary Leona Williams perform some songs written especially for this appearance written by some great songwriters including Merle Haggard, Leona Williams, Bonnie Owens and Tommy Collins. Also included is the original liner notes from the editor of the San Quentin newspaper: 'San Quentin Prison I learn to hate you more each visiting day...' With but twelve words, Leona Williams epitomized the thoughts of more than 1500 San Quentin convicts and, for those of us housed inside the walls of California's oldest state prison, she did indeed become 'San Quentin's First Lady.' That Merle Haggard would, upon his return to San Quentin, bring a recording artist with excellent singing ability was expected by those who awaited the New Year's Day Show of Stars. That he would bring someone as talented as Leona Williams was beyond expectation for few of us entered the north dining room with the belief that we would be given our freedom. Yet, with songs such as 'Prisons Aren't Only For Men,' 'Workin' Girl Blues,' 'If Anyone Ought To Know,' 'I Wonder Where I'll Find You At Tonight?' and 'San Quentin,' Leona Williams did, in fact, sing us back home. That the Missouri born daughter of a musical family would eventually bring a few house of freedom to the people who best understand it's meaning is a tribute to the warm, sincere personality of the lady who gave some 1500 convicts a reason to smile. Amidst thunderous applause, Leona sang of the 'ugly walls' that fit San Quentin 'like a glove.' Nearing the end of the song 'San Quentin,' Leona was to receive the highest honor bestowed by convicts-they refused to let her leave the stage. Clapping, screaming and yelling for more, the convict audience demanded an encore. As the walls echoed the cheering, Leona repeated the last few versus of 'San Quentin.' Like anything else, the New Year's Show had to come to an end. Yet, unlike anything else, San Quentin's 1976 New Year's Show would never be forgotten for within it's walls the convicts witnessed the birth of San Quentin's First Lady. The birth of a lady who, if but for an hour, gave freedom to those who have all but forgotten what it means to be free.' Bobby Wheeler, B-59714 Editor, San Quentin News San Quentin State Prison.