It’s the mid-1960s in Bedford-Stuyvesant where some 15 or 20 young men get into the habit of harmonizing together after pick-up basketball games. One of them, an aspiring musician who is supporting himself as an elevator operator, notices some talented voices in the crowd, so one night he invites everyone back to his apartment to rehearse, hoping for something interesting to emerge. Only four people bother to show up, but their voices work so well together that they quickly decide to form a five-person acapella singing group. Like him, they all have day jobs (butcher, plumber, shoe salesman, store detective) thus their rehearsal sessions happen only at night or on weekends. Sometimes they rehearse in a subway station for its echo effect and this is where they are discovered by their soon-to-be-manager as he and his wife are getting off a train. Although he has never managed a group before he soon secures the quintet a record deal by having them sing over the phone to some guy in Los Angeles. A week later, the guy on the telephone, who not only leads a wildly experimental rock band but also runs an equally adventurous record label, sends them a contract and roundtrip airplane tickets to California to record an album. The name they give themselves comes about in a similarly happenstance manner. Many of the older bands they model themselves on are named after birds or cars, but it seems to them that all the good avian and automotive names have been taken. It’s only when browsing through the Bible that one of the group chances on the word “Persuader.” What better name for a group that in a period mad for electrified instruments is going to have to convince—persuade—people to listen to five unaccompanied voices?
(The Persuasions: Jerry Lawson, Jesse Russell, Herbert Rhoad, Jimmy Hayes, Jayotis Washington; David Dashev; Frank Zappa)