the persuasions
random notes

     From: Patrick Neve (
The Persuasions have had a long-time connection to Zappa.  From Frank signing their first record deal in 1969, to double bills dating back to 1971, to covering occasional Zappa tunes on releases, and apparantly an all-Zappa album is in the works. Absolutely essential, though, is the work they did with Zappa's Universe.

     From: ZappaLVR (
Last Thursday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer (March 19, 1998), had an article in the Lifestyle section about the Persuasions written "Special to the PI" by Rip Rense.  Relavent passages are excerpted here:
". . . .They were never an oldies group, but an eclectic, virtuosic ensemble that adapted songs written by everyone from Kurt Weill to Bob Dylan.  Frank Zappa signed them to their first album deal in 1968 -- merely on the strength of having listened to them perform from a New York studio over the phone.
. . . .Two major works loom:  a semi-autobiographical off-Broadway or Broadway musical and an all-Zappa CD.
       "I've always been a Frank Zappa guy," laughed Lawson.  "You can't imagine how great his music sounds a cappella, especially some of his early material."
       The sight of the usually tuxedoed group -- well known for its Christian gospel roots -- performing Zappa's mordant anthem, "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing," leaves audiences in stitches.
       The Zappa album, which they will finish later this year, brings up another barrier the group as run into with the marketing arm of the music industry:  its eclectic repertory.  The Persuasions sing everything from gospel to blues, jazz, ballads, and rock. . . . "

     From: JYOB (
The Persuasions opened up for the MOI at Carnegie Hall on 10/11/71.

At the 1971 Carnegie Hall show that I attended, Frank walked onstage and said, "Boys and girls, welcome to the desecration of Carnegie Hall".  The Persuasion's were the warm-up band, and we DID NOT boo them off the stage. We brought them back for encores. I have more fond memories of this and many other  Mother's concerts during this time frame. This was the best show I ever saw. 
As for The Persuasions, the Zappa New York City audience of that time frame was fairly intolerant of less than type flight entertainment. The "Bob Seger System", was booed off the stage at the first Felt Forum Grand Wazoo show before they finished their FIRST SONG!!  The result of this was a less than stellar reputation as an audience. I remember the look of ABSOLUTE ASTONISHMENT on the faces of the Persuasions when we gave them a standing ovation and brought them back for encores at the end of their set! These crazy-ass, high as a kite white kids actually like us!! You could see it on their faces, believe me.  Another interesting tidbit regarding the Carnegie is: At the end of The Mother's set, naturally the place went wild. This was EASILY the best show I had ever seen him perform, and the acoustics in the old hall were magnificent. He was clearly pleased to be playing there. After the band left the stage, the standing ovation began, and after awhile, Frank re-appeared on stage alone. He quickly informed us that, "The management says if I want to use this stage after midnight, I've got to pay them $600". Well, basically with that statement and Frank's general demeanor, people started putting jackets on and getting up to leave. He then adds from the stage, "Well I'll tell you people something, I'd be HAPPY to pay $600 to play for you  people!" With that, the crowd went completely bonkers, and the rest of the band came out and they played again.  There may have been more than one song during the encore, I really can't recall. The last song of the night however, was definitely "The Mudshark".  When the band had come out and reformed onstage for the encore, Frank stepped up to the mike and announced, "This next song is dedicated to the PRICK in the back counting the overtime money!" 
-George Grand, Eastampton, New Jersey

The Persuasions also perform on Joni Mitchells 'Shadows and Light' album.  Great band she has on that album, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Don Alias and Michael Brecker.

     From: Jon Naurin (
I think they sang some numbers with BFU in Seattle back in 1995, at an event with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. I don't have a tape myself (boy, it felt weird to write that!), but I'm sure someone who has it can confirm.
Oh, and lets not forget The Persuasions' chaotic live version of Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? together with Dog Eat Dog.

     From: FHemmer209 (fhemmer209@aol.comSpamnot)
Last night (August 5th 2000) Napi and Bogus Pomp did The Evil Prince and it was spectacular. Napi was in a cape and played the *bad dude* to the hilt. He sang the entire lead vocal part himself which is a challenge by itself, let alone singing it while prancing around the stage.  An awesome show! The Persuasions were great too!

     From: Marc De Bruyn (


The Persuasions- A Cappella
      69 LP Straight 6394
02/09/70 LP Straight/Reprise RS 6394
         CS Bizarre R4-70362
      70 LP Bizarre R2-70362
         CD Rhino 70362
      89 CS Capitol 73396
      89 CD Capitol 73396
      91 CD Rhino 70362

* * * *
Album Review:
Q Magazine (1/95, pp.258-259) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...The epitome of strictly a cappella NYC street corner doo-wop....Jerry Lawson sings most of the leads, but Joe Russell's spotlight numbers suggest that his appealingly raw gospel voice should be thrust forward more often..."
Jazziz (2/95, p.95) - "...the Brooklyn-based Persuasions stand out as an American original....This is an eclectic album of lowdown and gritty powerhouse material.... really a very contemporary and infectious record..." 

     From: István Fekete (
Having heard this album, I can hardly wait for their new all-Zappa CD.

     From: Patrick Neve (
According to, it should have been recorded in July.  I can't wait either!  Also from that page: For a few years they sang in basements, garages and in the subway, where they found a great echo. One of their garage sessions was recorded while they were "just messing around." It was being played in a Jersey City record store which piped the sound onto the street (Stan Krause's?) when David Dashev walked by, heard it and sent the tape to Frank Zappa, who loved it. The decision to go to California and record was a momentous one as a couple of the group had families and they all had jobs. When they said OK they didn't even have a name. Jimmy Hayes was reading the Bible and saw Persuader in it. When he explained to the group his idea, because they were going to have to persuade people to follow a cappella music, everyone agreed immediately. At the time lots of groups ended their names with ions (Temptations, Impressions, etc.) so rather than Persuaders they became Persuasions. Frank flew the guys to California in 1968 to record on his Straight Records label. The album released was a combination of the studio recordings and some very early live tracks. It was a beginning.

Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa
Release date: April 4th, 2000
Label: Earthbeat Records

Official website:

     From: "Andrew Fignar Jr." (
Here's an article from the latest ICE Newsletter:

A Different Persuasion
The Music of Frank Zappa is given the a cappella treatment March 14 when Earthbeat! Records releases "Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa."
The disc covers Zappa compositions from 1963 through 1989, and even includes an interpretation of a Zappa instrumental, "Theme From Lumpy Gravy."
Although it may seem odd that a gospel group would be covering the music of a man who never met a religion he couldn't poke fun at, the story of Zappa and The Persuasions goes back over 30 years.  Back in 1969, Zappa signed the group to their first album deal, releasing "A Cappella" on his Straight Records label the following year.  In the ensuing years, The Persuasions have included Zappa's music in their concerts and, in 1991, joined forces with Dweezil Zappa and alumni from Zappa's various ensembles for the "Zappa's Universe" tribute concerts.
For "Frankly A Cappella," lead singer Jerry Lawson enlisted journalist (and occasional ICE contributor) Rip Rense to oversee the project.  A friend of Zappa during his lifetime, Rense had written liner notes for "The Yellow Shark" and "The Lost Episodes" albums at the request of the late musician.
Lawson and Rense chose the songs the group would eventually record for "Frankly A Cappella."
The tune stack:  "Theme From Lumpy Gravy" (a.k.a. "Duodenum"), "Any Way the Wind Blows," "Electric Aunt Jemima," "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing," "Interlude 1," "Cheap Thrills," "Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel," "Love of My Life," "You Are What You Is," "Interlude 2," "Harder Than Your Husband," "Find Her Finer," "Interlude 3," "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" and "Tears Begin to Fall."  The disc even contains a bonus track: group members Jimmy Hayes aned Jayotis Washington "with their heads inside a piano, conversing a la "Lumpy Gravy" and "Civilization Phaze III," according to Rense.  (The "Interlude" pieces are Persuasions compositions.)
Several tracks employ musicians who once worked with Zappa. Trombinist Bruce Fowler and guitarist Mike Keneally appear together on "Tears Begin to Fall," while "Cheap Thrills" features Fowler trading solos with Hayes, the Persuasions' bass vocalist.  And Keneally solos on, appropriately enough, "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama."

     From: John Healy (
I'm going to encode a track or two for my site this weekend. (RealAudio) They did a real nice job with "Harder Than Your Husband".

     From: Julie Hurwitz (
Did you know that's me doing the bit with Jerry on Harder Than Your Husband? Totally improvised , unplanned, and in one take!!!

     From: Patrick Neve (
There is a review of this album by Andy Greenaway at this site:
Guitar News Weekly
Edition #95, June 19, 2000

The Persuasions

Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa (Earth Beat)

In 1969, with rock'n'roll at its psychedelic zenith, Frank Zappa ignored prevailing trends and signed a cappella R&B group the Persuasions to his Straight Records label. The Brooklyn, NY-based Persuasions had been performing for the better part of that decade, but it was under Zappa's aegis that they recorded their debut album, 1970's A Cappella. Zappa, a lifelong doo-wop connoisseur who co-wrote the 1962 single "Memories of El Monte" for the Penguins, recognized the Persuasions as the real deal. And even though Zappa's name conjures up a welter of musical connotations -- transcendent guitar soloist, "serious" composer, jazz-rock innovator, scatological songwriter -- his music was often grounded in the type of close R&B harmonies that are still the Persuasions' forte. With Frankly A Cappella, the Persuasions make explicit Zappa's R&B-vocal connection, and pay tribute to a Renaissance man with a streetcorner soul.
The Persuasions (Jerry Lawson, Jimmy Hayes, "Sweet Joe" Russell, Jayotis Washington, Bernard "BJ" Jones, and Raymond Sanders) could easily have stocked this album with the most a cappella-friendly songs in Zappa's voluminous catalog, but they fearlessly delve into some of his earlier, more comically surrealistic songs. "Electric Aunt Jemima" gains a poignancy that was buried under the electronic modifications of its original version, and "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" is a solid, call-and-response groove, with in-the-spirit guitar breaks from guest FZ alumnus Mike Keneally. The album's opening track is a wordless vocal remake of an instrumental theme from the uncategorizable Lumpy Gravy album, and it does justice to its sweeping, heroic melody.
The Persuasions deepen the roots of Zappa's more straightforward R&B songs like "Love Of My Life," now set to finger-snapping accompaniment and featuring the guest voice of Zappa veteran Robert Martin. (The song originally appeared in 1968 on the twisted, not to mention curiously-timed, '50s tribute Cruising With Ruben & the Jets.) The heartbreaking descending chords of "Any Way The Wind Blows" sound like they were written with the Persuasions in mind, as do the beaming harmonies of "Tears Began To Fall," which features Martin, Keneally, and ex-Mothers trombonist Bruce Fowler.
A churchy feel suffuses "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" (a gospel-like melody that sardonically trains its sights on religion as well as government), and a funky throb punctuates the rousing reflection on poverty-line living, "Hotplate Heaven At The Green Hotel." Originally arranged as a country song, "Harder Than Your Husband" benefits from the group's soft vocal timbres, giving it a gentler cast than its first incarnation. And "Find Her Finer," a melody that always sounded like a throwaway, seems to have finally find its true self in the Persuasions' streamlined, soulful groove. The album also echoes the absurdist antics that Zappa could never resist, with well-timed interjections, impromptu shtick and between-song weirdness. Yet the Persuasions remain truest to Zappa in the rich sonic fabric woven by their commanding choral blends. With an appeal to doo-wop fans and Zappa-heads alike, Frankly A Cappella makes a Persuasive case indeed.

by Drew Wheeler

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Additional informants:
Millard Isobar (
Julie Hurwitz (