Not published in LIFE. Robert Riley, serving 10 to 16 years for housebreaking, sits in his cell composing music, Tennessee State Penitentiary, 1953. Riley co-wrote the hit song, “Just Walkin’ in the Rain.”
Remarkable photos on LIFE.com today of a music group of five prisoners (yes, prisoners—for major crimes) who achieved chart-topping success.
(Robert W. Kelley—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)