Wolfgang’s Vault Concert of the Week-The Persuasions Palace Theater Manchester, England 35 Years Ago Today 9.25.1973
Posted by jhochstat on September 24, 2008
Recorded on the band’s triumphant U.K. tour in 1973, this show captured one of America’s most renowned a cappella groups at the height of its career. This recording opens with the Persuasions’ take on the Del Vikings’ 1961 classic, “Come Go With Me.” A gospel blues medley provides the transition to their version of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” and Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” When things get a little quiet they simply revive old rock gems such as “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “Creation of Love,” “Tears On My Pillow,” and “Money Honey.” A gospel arrangement of “Lord’s Prayer” is a high point, as is the title song of their 1971 hit LP, ”Streetcorner Symphony.”
When the future members of the Persuasions were growing up they were listening to the 1950s black doo-wop vocal groups that emerged from the front stoops of New York City. Formed in Bedford-Stuyvesant, N.Y., in 1966, the Persuasions were an a cappella vocal group that only had a few chart successes but managed to maintain a strong, loyal following that has continued through the early 2000s. Performing with no instrumentation at all (among their most popular albums was one named We Still Ain’t Got No Band), the Persuasions bridged the gap between the classic doo-wop groups of the 1950s and the multi-layered R&B vocal groups of the 1960s.
They were discovered when they sent a tape to none-other-than Frank Zappa in 1968, who immediately signed them to his Bizarre Records label. The group found a large pool of industry support on the west coast, where they remained for several years. The Persuasions might have been more popular (response to them from rock critics was very positive) had they not had problems with Bizarre Records.
Zappa had formed the label with his manager, Herb Cohen, and signed an odd-ball, but eclectic, roster of acts including the Persuasions, the late folk crooner Tim Buckley (father of Jeff Buckley), a strange British stand-up comedian named Lord Buckley, a then-unknown rock band named Alice Cooper, and the controversial GTOs, a vocal group made up of real-life groupies whose full name was Girls Together Outrageously.
The Persuasions fell through the cracks for a couple of reasons: They were “normal” by the standards of the other acts on the label (which the press was more inclined to cover), and because shortly after they released their debut album, Zappa and Cohen had a nasty falling out and ending up suing each other over control of the label.
Still, the group persevered and eventually landed a deal with MCA Records, who was determined to break them into the contemporary R&B market. Most of their material was classic ‘50s and ‘60s pop music, with the occasional contemporary rock song thrown in as a challenge to their ability to arrange for voice only. The Persuasions have remained together and recorded dozens of albums, many of them based around the music of a particular artist, such as The Persuasions Sing U2 or The Persuasions Sing The Beatles.
The original lineup remained intact for over two decades, until the death of Herbert Tuobo Rhoad, who collapsed and died while touring with the group in 1988. The remaining four continue on the road even today.
Jimmy Hayes – vocals
Herbert Tuobo Rhoad – vocals
Jerry Lawson – vocals
Jayotis Washington – vocals
Ray Sanders – vocals