The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #95720   Message #1864430
Posted By: 12-stringer
20-Oct-06 - 02:11 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req/Add: The Prison Fire
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Prison Fire
No, it's the 1930 fire at the Columbus Prison in Ohio. Carson Robison wrote the song, and there were about a dozen recordings, mostly by CJR under pseudonyms, for various hillbilly labels, made the last week of April 1930.

With a little search I found the first 2 verses of the song via the Wayback Machine (the page Google comes up with no longer exists), but there was more to it than this. I used to have the song on 78 but it broke many years ago.

Locked in the cells of a prison
A prison much too small
Convicts were jammed and crowded
Within that cold gray wall
Four thousand men were living
As only rats should dwell
Iron bars all around them
Living a life of hell

All kinds of men thrown together
Some that were bad from the start
Others who got into trouble
Men really good at heart
Some of them only waiting
For death to bring the end
Others who longed for freedom
To start their lives again

The Carson Robison Papers are at Pittsburg University, in Kansas and include both printed and manuscript copies of "The Prison Fire." Whether they'd be willing to photocopy it for you is something you'd have to ask the Special Collections Department there.

This site offers a 1932 CJR songbook, with the tune, for $35
May be higher than your interest in the song, however!

One of the Robison 78s of this song is available on CD here, but it's from Germany