About The Persuasions
The Persuasions are A Capella
Since those long ago days in 1962, The Persuasions have gone on to sing in concert halls, clubs and perform the world over. They have release eighteen albums, with a nineteenth due in mid-2003.
Over the years, The Persuasions have opened for Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, Ray Charles, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor to name but a few. Interestingly, it should be noted that acts such as Roseanne Barr and Bruce Springsteen once opened for The Persuasions.
As a matter of fact they are the acknowledged Kings of Acapella They have been together for over forty years and proudly boast that the group contains only original and founding members.The Persuasions came together in Brooklyn, but all hail from different parts of the country. Jerry Lawson is originally from Florida. North Carolina is the birthplace of “Sweet” Joe Russell. Jimmy Hayes was born in Virginia and Jayotis Washington is from Motown, a Detroit native.
Herbert “Tuobo” Rhodes, an original Persuasion, passed away in 1988 while on tour with the group. Fellow Persuasion Jerry Lawson called Tuobo the “glue” of the group. Tuobo’s ashes were scattered by his mates in San Francisco Bay, as per his wishes. Tuobo’s earthly voice may have fallen silent, but those who knew and loved him can always hear his soulful baritone joining in whenever the Persuasions take the stage or hit the studio. Those who are new to the Persuasions or did not know Tuobo cannot always figure out where that seemingly extra voice and sweet sounding baritone comes from, but all those who know, understand that it is Tuobo.
All the original Persuasions have a strong history and deep background in church based music. Their singing, style and musical inventory has always included the heavy influence of gospel, a major measure soul, and a dose of pop.
The Persuasions moved from street corners to parties to “performances” during the 1960’s. The group worked with Robert F. Kennedy in Project Restoration and actively participated in many other programs and initiatives designed to aid African-Americans living in the inner cities of America.
Legendary musician Frank Zappa and his wife Gail discovered The Persuasions (In a commercial sense) in 1968. At the urging and encouragement of a good friend of the Persuasions, David Dashev (who eventually became the groups producer and manager), Zappa listened to a tape of The Persuasions. Shortly after listening to the tape, Frank and Gail Zappa signed the group to their label. The Persuasions debut album “Straight” was a mix of studio and live recordings released during the fall of 1970.
After the Straight album, the Persuasions signed with Capitol Records and have since gone on to release a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed recordings. The Persuasions have released albums and CD with labels such as MCA, A&M Records, Elektra Records, Flying Fish, Rounder and Rounder/ Bullseye Blues, Music For Little People, (Earthbeat!/Rhino), Grateful Dead Records/ Arista and Chesky Records. You can peruse The Persuasions discography at this link.
The sound and soul of The Persuasions are always evolving. The groups first ever recording specifically for children, On The Good Ship Lollipop was released in 1999.
In March, 2000, The Persuasions released an album in tribute to their old and dear friend, Frank Zappa. The album was called “Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa.” At the time, Jerry Lawson of The Persuasions said, “Frank gave us our start, and this is our way of saying ‘thanks'”.
The Grateful Dead were next, when The Persuasions recorded a tribute album and released it in October 2000. The recording, “Might As Well: The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead” celebrated the songs of Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia.
In 2002, The Persuasions moved on to Chesky Records, where they recorded the critically acclaimed “The Persuasions Sing The Beatles.”
The Persuasions may not have invented A Capella. They have however, carried the torch and kept the art form alive, sometimes single handedly, for over four decades. They have done this by staying true to themselves, true to the music and true to their fans. They have recorded and performed songs ranging from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa, from Sam Cooke to Bob Dylan, and from Lennon and McCartney to Rogers and Hammerstein.They have taken standards and children’s classics and infused them with their own unique style and substance. They can take any song, make it their own and create an entirely new musical experience that even surprises the original authors.
Through their dedication, staying power and perseverance, The Persuasions have paved the way for groups like Boyz To Men, Take 6, and Rockapella. The Persuasions are the very reason A Capella societies exist around the world today.
During the mid 1990’s, director, producer and avowed Persuasions fan Fred Parnes developed the film documentary, Spread the Word: The Persuasions Sing A Cappella.The film has been honored at the Smithsonian Institute, and screened at exclusive and limited engagements and festivals in New York, Los Angeles, and through out Europe. The film has always garnered high critical praise from the press (such as The New York Post and Hollywood Daily Variety). The film was, and still is, warmly received by both Persuasions fans and music fans in general.
What started out humbly in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn is now a global phenomenon. The Persuasions have performed for fans in Alaska, Israel, throughout Europe, and down under in Australia. The Persuasions have appeared on stage, on record and on disc with such diverse artists as Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Liza Minelli, Van Morrison, Lou Reed Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Little Richard, Nancy Wilson, The Neville Brothers, Country Joe McDonald, B.B. King and Paul Simon.
The sounds of The Persuasions have been featured in films ranging from Joe Versus the Volcano to The Heartbreak Kid, from Streets of Gold to E.T.
The Persuasions are equally familiar with the small screen. The Persuasions documentary, “Spread the Word” has been broadcast on PBS. Spike Lee’s “Do It A Cappella” presented The Persuasions as “the godfathers of a cappella” and has also been broadcast on PBS stations nationwide. The Persuasions also appeared on PBS, performing in the tribute, “Music of the Late Kurt Weill,” singing “Oh, Heavenly Salvation.”
The Persuasions have made musical guest appearances on television shows that seem to cover the entire day! The group has performed on Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Tonight Show, and Late Night with Conan O’ Brien. Weekends were covered with appearances on Saturday Night Live!
The Persuasions started out as a bunch of kids hanging around singing Acapella. They have gone on to become the undisputed Kings of Acapella.
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Spafford released audio from their recent show at The Bluebird in Bloomington, Indiana which featured two completely improvised sets just in time for this week’s ‘Full Show Friday’ column.