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Jail Guitar Doors

January 28, 2013
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Kramer—with signature U.S. Flag Stratocaster—leads the band’s final bow at Lancaster.
“My name is Wayne Kramer, and I’m mostly known as a guitar player, but for a few years I was known as 00180I90 when I was in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Seconds later, the MC5 founder—and one of Rolling Stone’s top 100 guitarists of all time—kicked off a jail yard concert for 600 inmates in the California State Prison at Lancaster. Kramer’s band also included Gilby Clarke, Matt Sorum, Corey Parks, Carl Restivo, Corby Gallegos, Eric Gardner, Jill Sobule, Phil Ranelin, and Mellow Man Ace.

The Lancaster event was sponsored by the non-profit organization, Jail Guitar Doors—named after the Clash song about Kramer’s incarceration for selling cocaine in the ’70s—which donates guitars to prison music programs. British alt-folk musician Billy Bragg launched Jail Guitar Doors in the U.K. to honor his late friend, Joe Strummer, and teamed up with Kramer and his wife in 2009 to open the U.S. branch. Collectively, they have donated hundreds of guitars (largely Fender and Taylor acoustics) for prisoner rehabilitation all around the world.

 
Former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke takes heed of the rules.
“Being able to play music was crucial to my own rehabilitation,” said Kramer. “It’s a way to process your problems.”

At Lancaster, the Kramers donated 12 Fender acoustic-guitar packages. The prisoners who get the privilege of playing these guitars earn that right by signing an agreement with the prison to abstain from drugs, alcohol, violence, racism, and gangs for two years or more. For more on Jail Guitar Doors, visit jailguitardoors.org.

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