Apart from X-mas chartbusters like White Christmas and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, this Prisoner's Song was the biggest American millionseller prior to the rock 'n roll age. Dalhart's versions alone (18 in all on at least a dozen labels) sold over 7 million copies. Vernon Dalhart was a Texan opera tenor turned hillbilly story singer in 1916. There was no mining disaster, no plane crash or dead film star Vernon Dalhart didn't sing about. His real name was Marion Try Slaughter. Vernon and Dalhart are two north Texas place names, east and west of Amarillo (Vernon himself was from Jefferson, TX). Author Guy Massey was his nephew and served time. His brother Robert Massey claimed (until his death) he was the actual songwriter. Guy made sure all future royalties were for Robert's heirs. Still, Guy Massey remains the only official composer, even with a chorus from an 1826 British music-hall number Meet Me In The Moonlight Alone.
Nat Shilkret [vocal by Vernon Dalhart]
Ross Gorman Orch. [vocal: Vernon Dalhart]
Yellow Jackets [vocal: Vernon Dalhart]
Sonny Burgess [on Sun as Wings Of An Angel]
Warren Storm [swamp pop classic]
Elvis Presley [as Wings Of An Angel, released in '93]
The B-side also kicked dust, originally the A-side: Wreck Of The Old 97 (see there). Last but not least, this Prisoner's Song provided the melodic framework for It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels and the rest (see: Blue Eyes).