Jerry Lawson - lead; Jimmy Hayes - bass; Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad - baritone; Jayotis Washington - first tenor; Joe Russell - second tenor
The Persuasions might have been more aptly named the Persistents. Despite numerous obstacles and bouts of bad luck, the band has consistently bounced back with new records, tours and continued support from their fiercely loyal cult following. Since the group first started singing together (as far back as 1962), they have endured through 22 albums on 14 different labels for over four decades.
A New York-based a cappella group featuring vocalists Jerry Lawson on lead; Jimmy Hayes on bass; Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad on baritone; Jayotis Washington on first tenor and Joe Russell on second tenor; The Persuasions embraced the classic 1950s street corner doo-wop style and reintroduced it to a new generation of rock and soul music fans during the 1960s and 70s.
This show, recorded in the fall of 1973, was captured while the band was promoting their fifth album (and the sole title for MCA Universal in their catalog), We Still Ain't Got No Band. While The Persuasions were coming off their most commercially successful studio album (1972's Street Corner Symphony, on Capitol, which charted in Billboard's Top 100), the group was still virtually unknown to many rock and soul fans. As apparent here, the group usually stuck to standard '50s and '60s pop classics in their live show, and often had their work cut out for them, opening to large audiences for acts like the Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell (both major fans and supporters of the quintet). Despite the challenges, The Persuasions almost always gave memorable performances to resounding applause.
All but one of the five original members had moved to the Manhattan area in the early 1960s. The members all worked a variety of jobs (Lawson as a store detective; Hayes as an elevator operator; Russell worked was a butcher; Washington as a licensed plumber and Rhodes was a shoe salesman) before they started singing for fun on street corners, basements and subway stops after daily neighborhood basketball pickup games.
They gradually started concentrating on their singing. Initially, they had a sixth member, who accompanied the singers on guitar, but when he failed to show up at their first important gig, the group decided to go on stage anyway, giving a brilliant performance as an a cappella vocal group. After hearing the audience response that night, they decided they didn't need any instrumental accompaniment, and never looked back.
Through the help of a manager and a record store owner, their initial demo was played for rock star Frank Zappa, who in 1969 was a known lover of '50s doo-wop music. Zappa immediately signed the group to his fledgling Bizarre Records (a label formed with his ex-manager Herb Cohen). The first album, entitled Acappella, received rave reviews but minimal sales. After Zappa and Cohen sued each other over control of the label, Bizarre folded and The Persuasions were again without a label.
Still, the sole album with Zappa did give the group a considerable profile, and they were signed in 1971 to Capitol. From there they essentially released an album almost every year (including tribute albums to U2, The Beatles, and even Frank Zappa) and numerous label signings. The group has signed to MCA Universal, A&M, Arista, Elektra, Capitol, Rounder, Rhino and most recently Chesky, among several others. Recently, things have stabilized; although Lawton left in 2003 and Rhoad died while touring with the group in 1988 of a heart attack, The Persuasions still continue to record and tour all over the globe. The group has always kept a pretty consistent mix of oldies, contemporary hits, originals and gospel in their set list, and this show was no exception.
Opening with the Del Vikings doo-wop classic, "Come Go With Me," they soon move into the Sam Cooke hit, "Chain Gang." The group does a particularly inspired version of Bill Withers' "Lean on Me," a contemporary hit at the time this show was recorded in 1973. The heart of the show revolves around several early rock 'n' roll hits grouped together. "The Ten Commandments of Love" is followed by a doo-wop medley consisting of "Sincerely," "A Thousand Miles Away," "Never Let You Go," "Goodnight Sweetheart," and "Speedo."
A gospel arrangement of "Lord's Prayer" is a high point, as is the title song of their 1971 hit LP," Streetcorner Symphony." The show ends with a stirring version of The Impressions' legendary gospel pop hit, "People Get Ready."