As C. Eric Banister writes in Johnny Cash FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Man in Black:
Johnny Cash made history by being the first major artist to record an album in a prison. Other country and blues artists followed: Mack Vickery with Live at the Alabama Women’s Prison (1970), B.B. King with Live at Cook County Jail (1971), John Lee Hooker with Live at Soledad Prison (1972), Freddy Fender with Recorded Inside Louisiana State Prison [*note: “phony” prison album – click on link to related Zero to 180 piece] (1975), Big Mama Thorton with Jail (1975), Leona Williams with San Quentin’s First Lady (1976), and Sonny James with In Prison, In Person (1977), to name but a few.”
Deke Dickerson speaks for all of humanity when he states “I hereby nominate Mack Vickery Live at the Alabama Women’s Prison the greatest album cover in the history of album covers” (check out the competition to even better appreciate this impressive feat).
Okay, so the underappreciated Mack Vickery produced one of the world’s most memorable album covers – is it possible he also created the first women’s prison album?
“Alabama Women’s Prison Blues” Mack Vickery 1970
Mega would issue a promo 7-inch in 1972 with “Alabama Women’s Prison Blues” as the A-side and “Life Turned Her That Way,” naturally enough, on the flip side.
Mack Vickery at one time likely had the world’s only women’s prison album – but no longer: Four years later, vocal trio The Moments would steal Vickery’s thunder when they released their Live at the New York State Women’s Prison album.
Twenty years later, Marshall Chapman would upstage everyone by recording her live album, It’s About Time, at the Tennessee State Prison for Women.
Fast forward to the present: up-and-coming musical artist, Naima Shalhoub, according to the website Upworthy, visits the San Francisco County Women’s Jail weekly to hold “music sessions” — her debut live album that was recorded in this setting is expected to be released this summer.