Segments in this Video

Leotha Brown (02:54)


Leotha Brown explains the importance of having an emotional outlet through music. He plays soprano saxophone alone on the yard at Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Pure Heart Messengers (04:06)

Louisiana State Penitentiary gospel quartet The Pure Heart Messengers sing a cappella on the big yard of the main prison. They discuss hope for release and redemption.

John Taylor Walks (01:54)

The Pure Heart Messengers introduce Angola’s gospel pioneer John Henry Taylor, Jr., who has retired from singing in prison.

Angola Band Montage, Part 1 (02:01)

Major Cazelot describes the prevalence and importance of having bands at Angola. The Main Prison Gospel Band performs.

Angola Band Montage, Part 2; John Taylor Refuses (04:25)

The band montage continues with performances from the Jazzmen and Angola’s Most Wanted. The montage is interrupted by John Henry Taylor, Jr. refusing to sing for the producers. Former student Albert Patterson convinces Taylor to sing again.

Family Academic Choir (04:50)

Family Academic Choir leader Gary Landry rehearses the choir in the chapel. Landry explains how music has the capacity to create new experiences and growth in prison.

John Taylor Sings, Interview (03:38)

John Henry Taylor, Jr. tells his story of establishing the gospel music scene at Angola and then losing his interest decades later when the groups were reformed.

John Taylor Sings, with Pure Heart Messengers (04:28)

John Henry Taylor, Jr. sings with The Pure Heart Messengers in the chapel.

Christie Nelson (02:38)

Christie Nelson, a new commit at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women sings an original song about Hurricane Katrina in lockdown. She predicts that music will do little to help her.

Orientation (03:11)

Veteran inmate Robin Bunly reviews prison rules with new inmates and offers advice. She recommends joining the choir. Consuela Thomas rehearses the LCIW Choir.

LCIW Choir Auditions, Latasha Roy and Taece Defillo (04:45)

Latasha Roy and Taece Defillo, two of the three women auditioning for the LCIW Choir explain their motivations for wanting to join. Each auditions with a song of their choosing.

LCIW Choir Auditions, Rockell Gregory (02:31)

The LCIW Choir audition continues with Rockell Gregory. Following her audition, officers conduct a routine count of the inmates.

Consuela Thomas and Ivy Mathis (04:30)

LCIW Choir director Consuela Thomas sings alone in her room. She explains how music creates much needed private space and social connections. Choir member Ivy Mathis discusses the challenge of close relationships and how music offers hope given her life sentence.

LCIW Choir Concert (05:06)

Details of a typical morning begin with officers arriving at LCIW and lead up to a concert given by the LCIW Choir.

LCIW Choir Concert, Interviews; Rockell Gregory (05:17)

The three women who auditioned earlier for the LCIW Choir explain where they are now. Taece Defillo has found community and trust in the choir. Latasha Roy dropped out, suspect of choir member motivations. Rockell Gregory is in lockdown after getting into a fight. Gregory sings one of her songs in the hallway as women look on from their cells.

The Music Association, Clay Logan and Daniel Moore (03:45)

Members of the Music Association at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center meet about changes in leadership and the future release of a member. Clay Logan speaks about the transient nature of Hunt’s prison population. Daniel Moore anticipates his release and how it will affect his bandmates.

The Music Association, Yves Bourgeois and Warren Scott (01:55)

The Music Association meeting continues as they plan for an upcoming yard show. Yves Bourgeois and Warren Scott describe their feelings of playing music for inmates.

The Field, Morning Preparation (03:20)

Correctional officers prepare for overseeing field work at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. Major Larry Thompson accounts for the loss of the old prison worksongs.

The Field, Singing and Rapping (04:56)

Inmates sing and rap in Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s okra fields. Ronald Brown stresses the importance of staying current musically. Otis Williams, Quincy Jones, and Reginald Johnson discuss how music relates to working in the field.

Yard Show, Preparation (04:45)

Members of Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s Music Association prepare for a yard show on the big yard. Drummer Daniel Moore talks with bandmates about his impending release.

Yard Show, Alford Rose Performs (02:16)

Blind country singer Alford Rose sings one of his songs with Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s Music Association.

Yard Show, Tribe Performs (05:33)

Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s metal band, Tribe performs an original song about racism in prison.

Yard Show, Interviews (03:02)

Members of Tribe reflect on the yard show. Clay Logan reveals a dissatisfaction with playing music. Leon Brock expresses enthusiasm for his newfound musical outlet. Warren Scott explains the importance of staying active while incarcerated. Daniel Moore prepares himself for leaving his bandmates and entering the free world.

Daniel Moore Exit Ceremony (05:49)

Inmates participate in a release ceremony with families in attendance. Daniel Moore changes into street clothes, describes the last time he played with his bandmates, and leaves Elayn Hunt Correctional Center with his family.

Alford Rose (03:10)

Blind country singer Alford Rose sings one of his songs over the telephone in his dormitory.

Credits: Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians (01:13)

Credits: Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians

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Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



The old work songs have disappeared from southern prisons, yet a rich musical culture endures. Picking up where folklorist Alan Lomax left off, this documentary visits three Louisiana prisons to explore the role of music in the lives of incarcerated men and women. Filmmaker and ethnomusicologist Ben Harbert captures compelling gospel, rap, and R&B performances in a variety of settings, while his interviews with inmate-musicians—some newcomers, some long-timers, some set for release—provide a glimpse into the psychological aspects of an individual’s prison experience. Most of the people Harbert speaks with reveal vulnerability and regret, along with a keen appreciation for the restorative powers of music. “I’ve been incarcerated for almost fifteen years for armed robbery,” says Consuela Thomas. “Forty-seven year sentence...Even if there is no radio, I can sing. That’s what keeps me...” (96 minutes)

Length: 97 minutes

Item#: BVL53550

ISBN: 978-1-61753-953-4

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Well conceived and thoughtful in its representation of the topic, Follow Me Down will be of great interest to ethnomusicologists, Americanists, anthropologists, and other scholars in the humanities and social sciences interested specifically in music and prison life, or music and music making in the context of adversity. It also provides a great educational resource for exploring questions of music and meaning (personal, spiritual, and social), musical continuity and change (in comparison with Lomax’s earlier work), musical ethnography, and ethnographic filmmaking at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”—Francisco Lara, Independent Scholar for University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology

“It brings us up to date on the music of the people who are imprisoned in this country. We can no longer imagine it to be the work songs of 70 years’s a really groundbreaking film....a very important film.” —Anthony Seeger, Director Emeritus, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Recommended by Video Librarian.

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.