The Persuasions
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The Persuasions

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Blues A Capella




"Persuasions at McMillan Library"

"One of the musical thrills of my life was presenting the Persuasions in our concert series here at McMillan Library. Our central Wisconsin audience was enthralled from the first note. Their versatility, showmanship, and sheer talent are breathtaking. The Persuasions are great people as well as great musicians. You will never meet a nicer group of guys."

Ron McCabe, Director
McMillan Memorial Library
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin - Ron McCabe, Director McMillan Library

"Old Town School of Folk Music Review Persuasions Workshop"

"Dave and the group shared an intimate presentation of the genius that
goes into their art. They made everyone feel important and we all left
the session inspired and elated"

Jimmy Tomasello - Guitar Program Director, Old Town School of Folk Music

“If you want to experience rich, effortless instinctive harmony doo-wop style, displayed with matter-of-fact humility and gentle humor, take a workshop from the Persuasions.” Barb Silverman

Being in the same room with the legendary Persuasions was a thrill. They generously shared their expertise, their methodology, and their irrepressible love for what they do. Very highly recommended for both professional singers as well as the rest of the world who, like the Persuasions, lift up their voices for the sheer delight of doing so.

Michael Miles


Past President International Folk Alliance

Former Artist in Residence, Old Town School

The Persuasions vocal workshop was a joy for all in attendance and garnered a lot of positive feedback. People were thrilled to be able to take this class from such legendary and talented artists.

- Old Town School Of Folk Music

"At the Old Town School, the Persuasions keep rolling after 50 years"

At the Old Town School, the Persuasions keep rolling after 50 years

January 14, 2012|By Kevin McKeough, Special to the Tribune

Performing "Ol' Man River" early in their show at the Old Town School of Folk Music Friday night, members of the Persuasions mimed grueling work as Jimmy Hayes called out the song's decree, "tote that barge until you're dead."
The brief bit of play-acting both placed the Persuasions' a cappella singing in an African American tradition dating back to the era of slavery and exemplified the quintet's skill at entertaining with only their voices and their movements.

The Persuasions, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, began singing together after pickup basketball games in Brooklyn. Discovered and first recorded by Frank Zappa, they've released dozens of albums and recorded and toured with numerous rock royalty, including Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell.
With co-founder Joe Russell recently sidelined by health problems, Hayes is the only original member now performing with the group (although others have tenure dating back to the 1990s). If the current line-up lacked the street corner earthiness of the first incarnation, they delivered assured renditions of material dating from the group's early days to recent CDs of songs by Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead.
Hayes anchored the songs with his "bom-bom-bom" bass patterns while Cliff Dawson, B.J. Jones and Raymond Sanders cooed in sweet, billowing harmony behind lead singer Dave Revels. The five men merged their voices rapturously on the songs' choruses, particularly their superb, set-ending rendition of "People Get Ready."
Revels worked subtle, soulful variations on the melodies of "Like a Rolling Stone" and other songs as he sang in a light, supple tenor that bursts into fervent soul shouts and calls. Sanders similarly brought a preacher's cadences to his turns on lead vocal, including "Blowing in the Wind."
If the hyperactive sound effects they created for "All Along the Watchtower" lapsed into camp, the Dead's "Ripple" arguably has never sounded lovelier than it did swathed in the group's harmonies.
The Persuasions also provided plenty of old school showmanship, from their matching double breasted suits and red shirts to the way Revels threw his whole body into acting out "Rocky Raccoon" to their encore, as the group brought women onstage to sit next to them as they serenaded the ladies with a bouncy rendition of Joe Tex's "I Want to Do (Everything for You)."

- Chicago Tribune


A cappella legends The Persuasions took the Okun Theater
stage at SUNY Delhi, and lead singer Dave Revels didn’t hesitate
to jokingly ask bass dynamo Jimmy Hayes about his pulse. This,
right before they accelerated their audience’s collective heart-rate with “We Still Ain’t Got
No Band,” an affably defiant mantra of sorts for this most thoroughly (and enduringly) music
group. Each Persuasion, outfitted in a regal purple suit, had his own awesomely versatile
vocal instrument.
Warming the Delhi crowd was what The Persuasions were all about Saturday, Feb. 19.
Outside as wind whirled and snowflakes streamed, those harmony-hungry fans hardy
enough to attend bore witness to “The Pers” as a cohesive force of nature in their own right,
their joined tones cascading and illuminating.
The only effect spell-bindingly comparable to their voices when they first swelled together at
each song’s beginning was perhaps when they settled like one intricately layered sigh at its
close. The animated, expressive lead singing of Revels was matched in its sharpness by his
nimble, sometimes pointed stage presence. When microphone problems arose (they proved
to be somewhat of an issue throughout), Revels hilariously suggested that the sound man
might be seeking stardom and stage time.
The spotlight was often inevitably on the incredibly charismatic “Sweet” Joe Russell, one of
the group’s founding members. He began the concert seated on a silver stool, but soon rose
to march alongside indefatigably striding
partners in song B.J. Jones and Raymond
Sanders. Before fans knew it, Russell was
making his way to the stairs at the side of the
Revels is an alumnus of The Drifters, but
it was Russell who ventured out into the
audience, like some master traveling musical
salesman instinctively hitting the road, seeking
a cappella collaboration wherever he
could find it.
Quintessential Persuasion that he is, a mischievously
good-natured Russell had his work
cut out for him “persuading” any petrified
fan to join in _ when one intrepid young
lady did, Russell heartily grooved along to
her vocals, as if having hit a talent search
jackpot (as a reward for her considerable
courage, Revels gave her not one but two Persuasions CDs later on in the show).
During their rendition of The Tymes’ 1961 classic “So Much in Love,” the smoky, crackling
richness that sang one line would streak up to shocking, sugared high notes in the next.
The falsetto that proclaimed “you make me feel brand new” sounded freshly polished and
squeaky clean.
There was an insistent _ and infectious _ urgency to the Persuasions’s 15-plus song set.
Throughout, Hayes’s grounding basso profundo felt almost seismic, too resonantly expansive
for one man to generate.
Being that it was a cold, snow-blown Saturday, the Persuasions reasoned, they would not
be able to get home in time for church on Sunday. “So we’re going to go to church tonight,”
Hayes said. The gospel genre certainly registered as Joe Russell sang “If I Could Touch The
Hem of His Garment,” and the Persuasions put new spring into the step of “When The Saints
Go Marching In.” Ray Sanders definitely infused his take on “Some Kind of Wonderful” with
a preacher’s charged enthusiasm.
Revels made sure to give a nod to military servicemen before The Persuasions headed into
“500 Miles From Home” _ the sadness of separation is rarely so atmospherically evoked,
nor so stirringly rousing in its attempts to soothe.
As The Persuasions got set to close with the Fred Parris/Five Satins show-stopper “In The
Still of the Night,” they urged the audience to sing along.
This mass of vocalists on-stage is one lasting image from a mighty memorable night.
Another is more constant: Joe Russell anchoring the flanking Persuasions from his seat. With
Ray Sanders and B.J. Jones to Russell’s right, Dave Revels and Jimmy Hayes on his left, the
Persuasions huddled as if marking off a recreated Brooklyn streetcorner, the men making for
a kind of vital bedrock, a cornerstone to a cappella’s infrastructure.
Make no mistake, however, these Persuasions possess powerful (perhaps harmonically
synchronized) pulses _ and their performance reminded anyone within earshot that we
each have one as well.
_ Sam Benedict Feb. 24, 2011 O-Town Scene 21





The Persuasions (Zoho)

At first this disc is just weird.

Then it’s kind of interesting and a little funny.

But on about the third listen it morphs into something altogether unique and undeniably cool. The Persuasions have been recording for nearly 50 years and their take on a capella rhythm and blues is singular and inspirational. Applying it to to counter-culture signposts like "All Along the Watchtower," "Like A Rolling Stone," or "Blowing In The Wind," seems on paper to be gimmicky.

Sure the five-member group has done it with the music of the Grateful Dead, the Beatles, U2, and even Frank Zappa, but Dylan’s music always has been about the snarl in his voice and the edgy simplicity of the arrangements. In his music, words matter, so gussying them up Persuasions style seems like it could go really wrong.

That it works so well is a testament to the band’s sublime vocal skills. For example, they capture the dark drama of "All Along the Watchtower" through the strength of the complex arrangement, which is pretty tough given that song’s chugging guitar rhythms. (Think of Jimi Hendrix’s version for example.) And "Just Like a Woman" becomes a soul tour de force thanks to Dave Revels torching vocal.

But probably most impressive of all is the fun the Persuasions have with this music. In the end it’s the ultimate honor — and irony — that great vocalists would see fit to dissemble Dylan’s music and reconstruct as something so distinct.





If you want a tribute to a musical icon that takes a completely fresh take on his work, pick up the Persuasions new album, Knockin' on Bob's Door" (on ZOHO). This a cappella group has been around for almost 50 years, albeit now with only two of the original members: Jimmy Hayes (bass) and Joe Russell (tenor). The most significant addition to the group was the arrival in 2003 of Dave Revels, who not only sings lead tenor but acts as artistic director and arranger.

On the new CD, dedicated to the songs of Bob Dylan, they perform without any musical instruments songs that have become known through their arrangements. After all, Dylan himself had some of the best studio bands in the business as well as working with the Band and it's hard to imagine, for example, "Positively 4th Street" or "like a Rolling Stone" without Al Kooper's keyboard work or, for that matter, "All Along the Watchtower" without Jimi Hendrix's voice and guitar.

The Persuasions do both of these and do not minimize the bile in the first (as some of his interpreters do) nor the spookiness of the second, which is as eerie as Schubert's "Erlking." On the other hand, "Blowing in the Wind" sounds more like a gospel tune and "Forever Young" is blithely inspirational.

In short, the Persuasions remake Bob Dylan's songbook, adding a dose of soul and style, which is much more interesting than "Rain" (reference to critic's review of the Broadway Beatles tribute production at the Neil Simon Theatre) and far superior to Twyla Tharp's unfortunate choreographed production.




The Persuasions – Knockin’ On Bob’s Door – Zoho Music ZM 201011, 53:41****:

(Joe Russell – second tenor; Jimmy Hayes – bass; Dave Revels – lead tenor; Raymond Sanders – first tenor; Bernard “B.J.” Jones – baritone; Cliff Dawson – guest tenor)

There are some groups similar to the Persuasions. They sing a capella, but are strictly derivative in the context. The Persuasions do secular a capella, and have created their own idiom. Formed in Brooklyn over four decades ago, this soulful ensemble would be “discovered” by, of all people, Frank Zappa, who produced their debut album. Throughout their career, the group has interpreted rock, blues, country, pop and children’s music, reshaping the songs into vocal gems. Without a “hit” in the repertoire, they have remained a vital force in popular music. Despite personnel changes (only two original members remain), the formula continues to work. The arrival of Dave Revels as lead tenor and musical director has once again energized this American institution. Tributes to Motown, the Beatles and Zappa sustained a legacy of artistic commitment. This unlikely success is due to the incredible range and depth of the gospel vocals. Induction into the Doo Wop Hall Of Fame is merely one accolade of many in this storied career.

If the notion of a doo wop album of Dylan songs seems weird, then you get the concept of the Persuasions. Where most cover projects might make a deep, introspective reading of the lyrics, The Persuasions turn it into a gospel revival. The basic format of five (sometimes six) voices (three/four tenors, one bass and one baritone) is pristine and organic in its execution. Social consciousness on tunes like “Blowing In The Wind” and “All Along The Watchtower” is tempered by tight percussive voices. Revel’s mellifluous tenor brings a sense of playfulness to “Just Like A Woman” and “Like A Rolling Stones” It helps that Dylan’s lyrics possess rhythm and pace. Each arrangement is concise and showcases the group’s innate sense of soulful harmonics.

“Quinn The Eskimo” (written as a “bet” by Dylan), employs “vocal horns” as a strange but effective fanfare. The natural gospel lament of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” feels appropriate as a baritone hymn. A similar dynamic works for “Forever Young”, as the harmonies bring street corner singing to expressive heights. Not all of the arrangements are carefree. “Things Have Changed” expresses a distinctly, brooding narrative.
Unlike most tribute albums, “Knockin’ On Bob’s Door” adapts the music to the milieu of the Persuasions, not vice versa. For anyone interested in the profundity of a capella, this is a great place to start.
Robbie Gerson



HONEST TUNE - The Southern Journal of Jam

Review by Fred Adams

In 2000, nearly four decades into their career, The Persuasions released the hugely successful Might as Well: Tribute to the Grateful Dead. While it was not planned at the time, this began the group's tradition of honoring their favorite rock bands - including The Beatles, U2, JJ Cale, and even Frank Zappa - with gospel-driven, a capella renditions of their classic hits.

With Knockin’ on Bob’s Door, The Persuasions bring their five-part harmonies to one of the greatest catalogues in all of music. Given the depths of Bob Dylan’s material, the band decided to concentrate on his most famous songs from the 1960s, including “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “Just Like A Woman,” and “Lay Lady Lay.”

From the opening track, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Persuasions’ crisp, tight harmonies quickly draw attention. “All Along the Watchtower” journeys to a place previously unvisited, with percussive vocals that call to mind everything from New York City traffic to the noises of the African jungle. Equally impressive is the unique interpretation of “Quinn the Eskimo (The Might Quinn),” with The Persuasions mimicking the sounds of an amateur brass band trumpeting Quinn’s arrival.

If you are a Dylan fan, or a fan of great vocal harmonies, consider Knockin’ on Bob’s Door an absolute must-hear.



RELIX MAGAZINE _ JAN/FEB. 2011 issue Abigail Bull

The Persuasions is already known for it’s a cappella tributes to the Grateful Dead, The Beatles and even Frank Zappa. Now, with Knockin’ On Bob’s Door, the soulful group uses its smooth five-part harmonies to rework the words of the Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan. The ever-popular Dylan and The Band collaboration, “The Mighty Quinn,” is a particular highlight, as the group’s members use their voices to recreate the sound of a brass band. Staples like “All Along the Watchtower” and “Like a Rolling Stone” are also reworked into vocal-only rockers. While the melodies of Dylan’s songs are beautiful and his harmonica skills are unmatched, what he was admired most for was his lyrical genius--and a cappella singing is a fantastic way to showcase that.




A wonderful collection has been released that pays homage to one of the greatest songwriters of this century. Knockin’ On Bob’s Door by The persuasions is a fitting tribute recorded in honor of legendary songwriter Bob Dylan. Featuring some of Dylan’s greatest hits, The Persuasions put their all in such classics as “The Mighty Quinn” (with a profound reverberating tempo) and “Blowing In The Wind” (the harmonic current is incredible).

“Lay Lady Lay” is a successful Billboard chart topper and The Persuasions captured the richness of this track eloquently. The tribute would not be complete without “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. The Persuasions perform this with deep gospel undertones, which is really great. Knockin’ On Bob’s Door embraces an enjoyable sentimental journey down memory lane. - Esther Callens




To say that it seems the Persuasions have been around forever is only a slight exaggeration-the a cappella quintet dates back to 1962, and its blend of doo-wop and gospel harmonies has become familiar from more than two dozen albums.

Of late, the group has been turning out tributes to pop acts such as the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, the Beatles, U2, and J.J. Cale, and now, as you might guess from the title's play on Knockin' On Heaven's Door, it's Bob Dylan's turn to receive the "persuasions treatment." True to their heritage, the Persuasions still ain't got no band, but so skillful are their vocal arrangements that the customary musicians are never missed. Credit for all arrangements goes to lead tenor Dave Revels, the ex-Drifter who replaced longtime member Jerry Lawson a few years back. Revels also shines vocally on Mr. Tambourine Man, Just Like A Woman, and Positively 4th Street, while first tenor Raymond Sanders takes the lead on Blowing In The Wind. Of the group's two remaining original members, second tenor Joe Russell puts across Don't Think Twice It's All Right, and bass Jimmy Hayes solos on four tracks, most notably Lay Lady Lay and Things Have Changed. Although baritone B.J. Jones and guest tenor Cliff Dawson do not solo, they're integral parts of each arrangement, which escape the restrictions of four-part gospel to stretch out into the horn-based sounds of Quinn The Eskimo and the stunning vocal effects employed on All Along The Watchtower, which, though ingenious, tend to distract from what might be Revels' finest vocal performance of the date.

After proving that the Dylan songbook suits them, it'll be interesting to see where the Persuasions turn for inspiration next. For what little it's worth, my own suggestion would be Bob Marley.



2010 Knockin' On Bob's Door

The Persuasions
2005 The Persuasions Sing U2

2002 The Persuasions Sing the Beatles

The Persuasions
2000 Might as Well...The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead

The Persuasions
2000 Frankly a Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa

The Persuasions
2000 Sunday Morning Soul

The Persuasions
1999 On the Good Ship Lollipop

The Persuasions
1997 You're All I Want for Christmas

The Persuasions
1996 Sincerely

The Persuasions
1994 Right Around the Corner

The Persuasions
1993 Toubo's Song

The Persuasions
1988 Good News

The Persuasions
1984 No Frills

The Persuasions
1979 Comin' at Ya

The Persuasions
1977 Chirpin'

The Persuasions
1976 Live in the Whispering Gallery

The Persuasions
Click to Play 1974 I Just Want to Sing with My Friends

The Persuasions
1974 More than Before

1973 We Still Ain't Got No Band

The Persuasions
1972 Spread the Word

The Persuasions
1972 Street Corner Symphony

The Persuasions
1971 We Came to Play

The Persuasions
1970 A Cappella



The Persuasions are an A cappella group which began singing together in Brooklyn, New York in 1962. The group is known for its interpretations of both secular and non-secular music and has covered a wide range of musical genres, including an award winning children's CD, On The Good Ship Lollipop.

The five original members were lead singer, arranger and producer Jerry Lawson, "Sweet Joe" Russell, Jayotis Washington, Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad, and bassman Jimmy "Bro" Hayes.

The Persuasions can be categorized as an a cappella group which has covered gospel and popular music of each decade in which they performed and recorded. They have covered artists as varied as Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Roy Hamilton, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley, and toured, performed, and recorded with Joni Mitchell, Liza Minelli, The Grateful Dead, and Ray Charles. In addition to their own recordings, they have appeared on albums by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Don McLean, and Paul Pena, and their version of "Papa Oom Mow Mow" appears 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 groups manager at the time. Prior to that time, The Persuasions had recorded several a cappella tracks for Krause's legendary doo-wop/acapella label Catamount Records. Zappa had a great appreciation for Soul and Street corner style singing and immediately after hearing them flew the group 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), and U2 (The Persuasions Sing U2). Their constant eclectic choice of material, as well as the clever, unique direction of their arrangements, have been hallmarks of their live work and recordings since their earliest days.

Toubo Rhoad, one of the original members, died in 1988. Lawson left the group in 2003. Groups as varied as Take 6, Rockapella, The Nylons and Boyz II Men cite The Persuasions as major influences.

The current group members (as of 2010) consist of two original Persuasions: Joe Russell and Jimmy Hayes,rounded out by newer members Dave Revels (2009) and Ray Sanders (since 1996). Dave Revels joined the group officially in 2009 and has since taken over the role of arranger and producer for the group's recordings. He first recorded with the group in 2002 with former Lead Jerry Lawson on the Beatles tribute CD and then took over as arranger and producer in 2005 on the U2 CD on Chesky records, following Lawson's departure. He arranged and produced their latest CD on ZOHO Label, the critically acclaimed "Knockin' On Bob's Door," the music of Bob Dylan, released in November of 2010. Long time contributor on many of the group's recording "B.J." Jones still performs and records with the group.