Joe "Sweet Joe" Russell
born on 25/9/1939
died on 5/5/2012
The Persuasions are an a cappella group that began singing together in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-1960s. They have performed interpretations of both secular and non-secular music, and have covered a wide range of musical genres.
The five original members were lead singer, arranger, and producer Jerry Lawson, Jesse "Sweet Joe" Russell, Jayotis Washington, Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad, and bassman Jimmy "Bro" Hayes.
The Persuasions can be categorized as an a cappella group that has covered gospel and popular music of each decade in which they performed and recorded. They have covered artists such as Frank Zappa, the Grateful Dead, Roy Hamilton, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley, and toured, performed, and recorded with Joni Mitchell, Liza Minnelli, the Grateful Dead, and Ray Charles. In addition to their own recordings, they have appeared on albums by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Don McLean, and Paul Pena, and their version of "Papa Oom Mow Mow" appeared on the soundtrack of Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Frank Zappa was responsible for The Persuasions' first LP, Acappella. He heard The Persuasions singing over the phone from a New Jersey record shop known as Stan's Square Records. The store's owner, Stan Krause, was the group's manager at the time. Prior to that time, The Persuasions had recorded several a cappella tracks for Krause's record label, Catamount Records. Zappa had an appreciation for soul and street corner style singing, and after hearing the group, flew them to Los Angeles to record their first album. Thirty years later, Zappa fan Rip Rense supervised and encouraged the group in the creation of a Persuasions tribute CD to Zappa, Frankly A Cappella on Earthbeat Records.
The Persuasions later recorded tribute albums consisting of material by the Grateful Dead (Might as Well), the Beatles (The Persuasions sing the Beatles). The last album they made together prior to Lawson's departure was on the Chesky label titled A Cappella Dreams.
Toubo Rhoad, one of the original members, died in 1988. Lawson left the group in 2003 to pursue a career working with developmentally disabled adults, and later decided to pursue a singing career independent of the group. In 2007, he released his first post-Persuasions a cappella CD with his new group, Jerry Lawson and Talk of The Town. Lawson considers this the masterpiece of his a cappella career. In December 2010, Jerry Lawson and Talk of The Town were featured on Series 2 of NBC's The Sing-Off. Lawson was invited back on season 3 as a featured guest without Talk of the Town. He was accompanied by 16 cast members, performing the Arthur Conley hit (written by Sam Cooke) "Sweet Soul Music".
Founder member Sweet Joe Russell died on May 5, 2012.
In the liner notes to the 2003 album, A Cappella Dreams, they reveal their musical influences:
- Sweet Joe Russell references the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Soul Stirrers, and "all those gospel greats."
- Jimmy Hayes speaks of Jimmy Ricks [spelled "Rix" in the notes] and Melvin Franklin.
- Jayotis Washington focuses his attention on Louis Jordan.
- Ray Sanders thanks all of the Temptations for his influences.
- Jerry Lawson cites Roy Hamilton, Sam Cooke, Al Hibbler, Brook Benton, and Elvis Presley as his mentors, adding, "Believe it or not, Elvis was a big influence. I thought he was...a fine singer, and I think we do him pretty good."
- Acappella (1970; Reprise/Straight [CD issue: Enigma Retro; CD reissue: Collectables])
- We Came To Play (1971; Capitol [CD issue: Collectables])
- Street Corner Symphony (1971; Capitol [CD issue: Collectables])
- Spread The Word (1972; Capitol [CD issue: Collectables])
- We Still Ain't Got No Band (1973; MCA [not yet issued on CD])
- I Just Want To Sing With My Friends (1974; A&M [not yet issued on CD])
- More Than Before (1974; A&M [not yet issued on CD])
- Chirpin' (1977; Elektra)
- Comin' At Ya (1979; Rounder/Flying Fish)
- No Frills (1984; Rounder)
- Stardust (1987 [recorded 1969]; Catamount [CD issue: Relic])
- Good News (1988; Rounder)
- Live In The Whispering Gallery (1993; Hammer n' Nails)
- Toúbo's Song (1993; Hammer n' Nails)
- Ships at Sea, Sailors and Shoes [with Ned Sublette & Lawrence Weiner] (1993; Qbadisc/Excellent)
- Right Around The Corner (1994; Rounder/Bullseye Blues)
- Sincerely (1996; Rounder/Bullseye Blues)
- You're All I Want For Christmas (1997; Rounder/Bullseye Blues)
- Man, Oh Man: The Power of The Persuasions (1997; EMI [1970-72 Capitol masters compilation])
- On The Good Ship Lollipop (1999; Rhino/Kid Rhino/Music for Little People)
- Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa (2000; Rhino/EarthBeat)
- Might As Well...The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead (2000; Arista/Grateful Dead)
- Sunday Morning Soul (2000; Rounder/Bullseye Blues Basics)
- The Persuasions Sing The Beatles (2002; Chesky)
- A Cappella Dreams (2003; Chesky)
- Collectables Classics (2006; Collectables [Box set containing all 1971, 1972, & 1977 releases])
- Essential Recordings: A Cappella Soul (2008; Rounder [1979-86 Rounder/Flying Fish/Bullseye Blues compilation])
Jerry Lawson original lead singer, arranger and producer is now singing A Cappella with Talk of the Town and his only A Cappella CD released since leaving The Persuasions is "Jerry Lawson & Talk of The Town".
- "Party in the Woods"/"It's Better to Have Loved and Lost" [1968; Minit]
- "One Thing on My Mind"/"Darlin'" [1975; A&M]
The following various artists recordings contained otherwise unissued Persuasions recordings:
- Various Artists: Bread & Roses: Festival of Acoustic Music (1979; Fantasy)
- Various Artists: Spike & Co. Do It A Cappella [soundtrack] (1990; Elektra)
- Ned Sublette & Lawrence Weiner (with Kim Weston, Junior Mance, et al.): Monsters from the Deep (1997; Qbadisc/Excellent)
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed May 7, 2012
- Biography and discography
- Official website
- Jerry Lawson's website