MC5's Wayne Kramer teams up with local coffee roasters and L.A. nonprofit to bring music to Michigan prisons


Wayne Kramer. - JIM LOUVAU
  • Jim Louvau
  • Wayne Kramer.

For decades, Wayne Kramer of the MC5 has kicked out the jams, but his latest mission has the 73-year-old rock icon and writer kicking down prison doors to let the music in — and he's not doing it alone.

Kramer, who is the co-founder of Los Angeles-based Jail Guitar Doors USA, has teamed up with organic Traverse City coffee roaster Higher Grounds Trading Co. to bring rehabilitative music programing to Michigan prisons.

Jail Guitar Doors, a reference to the 1979 song by the Clash of the same name — and a song that details Kramer's 1975 arrest for selling cocaine to an undercover agent, which landed him two years in prison in Lexington, Kentucky — was founded in 2007 by fellow punk performer and activist Billy Bragg as a way to honor late Clash frontman Joe Strummer's legacy.

Initially, the organization's focus was on providing musical equipment to inmates incarcerated at Her Majesty's Prisons in the United Kingdom. It wasn't until 2009 that Bragg partnered with Kramer to found Jail Guitar Doors USA and, now, the organization has turned its resources and efforts to facilitating Michigan inmates' “healthy and productive re-entry into society” by way of music programming.

“I’m excited to partner with Higher Grounds to launch this new programming initiative. We’re laying the building blocks of a community of caring that includes those living behind bars in my beloved home state of Michigan,” Kramer said in a press release. “Our teaching artists in Detroit have already begun outreach to other musicians throughout the state in anticipation of creating a network of workshops for those in need.”

As part of Jail Guitar Doors' latest campaign, Kramer and co. in partnership with Higher Grounds Trading Company to raise funds and social justice awareness via a free Facebook Live performance and conversation on Thursday, May 13 at 8 p.m. Kramer will discuss Jail Guitar Door's latest initiatives and will perform songs from his classic catalog.

Per a press release, the Facebook Live event will also mark the launch of “Riff Roast” — a specialty fair-trade, dark-roasted collaboration between Higher Grounds and JGD-USA to directly raise funds ($5 per 1-lb bag) to support rehabilitative music programs.

To learn more about the Livestream event, visit the event's official Facebook event page. The event is free, but donations are encouraged.

To learn more about Jail Guitar Door's mission, visit

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