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"48 Hours" films in Portsmouth

by Janet Nesler

The Portsmouth Daily Times, Ohio

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Diners at Ye Olde Lantern, in Boneyfiddle area of Portsmouth got a special treat with their evening meal on Wednesday, March 6.

A CBS News camera crew from the program “48 Hours” showed up to tape a song “Siege at Lucasville,” sung by Fraternity Recording Artist, Steve Free, from McDermott, accompanied on the keyboard by Gary Billups.

“Siege at Lucasville” was written by free about the prison riot in April 1993, at the Ohio correctional Facility at Lucasville and landed on the Cashbox Top 100 charts in 1995.

Two weeks ago Free received a call from Tim Clifford, producer of “48 Hours” CBS News in New York, asking if there was a place the camera crew could tape him singing his song.  They wanted to include it in a half-hour segment about the prison riot in Lucasville.  Free told them they didn’t have to come all the way here to photograph him, they could just use the song.  Fraternity record Company sent a CD to CBS with permission to use the song.  Free received a second call from Clifford last week wanting to include him on the program.

Every Thursday evening, Free sings at Ye Olde Lantern, so arrangements were made for cameraman Jeff Spence and sound technician Frank Konesky of CBS News to tape a live performance by Free on Wednesday evening during dinner hour.

Tentatively, the program on “48 Hours” will be a day-to-day documentary on the riot and about issues that brought change at the Ohio Correctional Facility, also about the guards, and coverage about what happened at Cincinnati with conviction of Carlos Sanders, the inmate accused of leading the riot at Lucasville.

During the interview Free was asked by Spence, “What is the area like around here?”

Free answered, “It’s a great area.  It’s where the Midwest meets Appalachia.”

Another question was, “How did the riot change things?”

Free said, “Everyone always felt safe here and after the riot I feel no one ever felt quite as safe, especially the people around the Lucasville area.”

Spence asked why Free had written the song, “Siege at Lucasville.”  Free told him he had written the song during the riot, before the death of Robert Vallandingham, to tell the story, but had not finished it.  After the riot was over, he wanted it to be a memorial for Vallandingham and all the hostages, so no one would ever forget what had happened there.

He had then sent a copy to his record company and they wanted to record it right away, but he told them he didn’t want to take advantage of the situation so it was recorded on his CD “No Regrets” in August 1993 and not released  until January 1994.  By winter 1994 the song was on the charts.

Free’s new all-original CD, “Rivers, Rails and Tales,” was just released to 2,000 radio stations by Fraternity Records and is available locally.

The CBS camera crew earlier in the day had made a stop  at WPAY radio station to interview station manager, Frank Lewis.  Lewis was at the prison every day during the riot covering the story for WPAY and he was the only person to go into the prison at the time of the riot.

Lewis was asked by the FBI to go into the prison and set up communications for an inside broadcast.  This resulted in the release of Darrell Clark, one of the hostages.

Lewis was asked how big an impact the prison riot had on the community and had it continued to be a topic.  Lewis said, “It had a big impact because this is a small town and just about everybody knows each other.  The town felt it for a long time and probably always would to some degree.”

These thoughts are reinforced by the words of the song  “Siege at Lucasville.” In the song, Free says, “When the Siege is over, then the struggles just begin.  I don’t think we know the truth and we probably never will, about Lucasville.”

A CBS news crew interviewed the Vallandinghams at their residence while another crew covered the trial in Cincinnati.  Wanda Vallandingham, mother of guard Robert Vallandingham, who was killed in the riot said, “We do not want vengeance, we want justice.”

Wile addressing the court in Cincinnati, before the sentencing, Mrs. Vallandingham looked directly into the eyes of Carlos Sanders, convicted murderer, and said, “Our son’s life was worth more than just a bunch of beads.”

She recited part of a letter written by a former teacher of her son.  The letter said, “Some people cross our lives and quickly go.  Others come and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same.  I have footprints of Bob on my heart.”

The “48 Hour” program will air on CBS sometime in April, probably around Easter, which is the anniversary of the prison riot.


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