The Persuasions are an a cappella group that began singing together in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-1960s. They have performed in 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, Phoebe Snow, 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. The Persuasions were the opening act at The Mothers concerts at Carnegie Hall, 1971. 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".
Groups as varied as Take 6, Rockapella, The Nylons, and Boyz II Men cite The Persuasions as major influences.
Sweet Joe Russell died on May 5, 2012.
1971 song Good Times off Street Corner Symphony was sampled by electronic music producer Jamie xx in his 2015 single I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) off In Colour album, featuring rapper Young Thug and dancehall artist Popcaan. The sample sparked controversy when the song was first released, but it was cleared when the record label announced that the group was contacted prior to the song's release.
The group also appeared in Blue's Clues special, Blue's Big Musical with other special guest, Ray Charles, as the voices of the musical notes. The Persuasions also appeared in a few third season episodes of Gullah Gullah Island, like the episode, "Away All Boats" where during the credits, they sang "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" with Jerry Lawson providing the lead vocals, also during that same episode, they were also credited as the assistant composers with Peter Lurye, Gail Sky King, and Don Blackman, and the Season Three finale, "Special Places" where they sing "I Live on an Island."