Chester Jennings, 3 June 1978, Toledo, Ohio, USA. This soul vocalist and multi-instrumentalist undertook a longer life journey than most before completing his 2004 debut album. Growing up in Ohio, Jennings sang in teenage vocal group the Dotsons with his brother and two cousins, but any plans to take his musical career any further were cut short when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on an arson charge. While incarcerated Jennings began to turn his life around, learning to play the guitar and writing his own songs, drawing particular inspiration from the neo-soul movement that began to flourish in the late 90s.
After being released from prison in December 2002, Jennings immediately began recording and performing live, including a notable stint on the Showtime In Harlem showcase at New Yorks renowned Apollo theatre. His four-song demo attracted the attention of several major labels, leading to a recording contract with Sony Urban Music. The title of Jennings debut, Lyfe 268-192, was the number assigned to him in prison. The albums old-school production style was complemented by Jennings gritty vocals, which drew inspiration from Al Green and Sam Cooke. The slow-burning commercial success of the album, which reached the upper regions of the US mainstream charts the following year, paid testament to the quality of both Jennings songwriting and committed performance style.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.