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November 17, 2005

Convinced by Persuasions

Washington Times (DC):

More than 40 years ago in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, a group of 20 or so young men would gather every evening for a few pickup games of basketball. But the real treat came afterward, when the group, loath to leave, would spontaneously break into song. "You've got all those guys just singing," says baritone Jimmy Hayes, who will be performing as part of the a cappella group The Persuasions at the Birchmere Saturday. "And you could hear ... that a few guys were singing in harmony. So I said, why don't you come by my house and have a practice?"

The five basketball players who showed up that day went on to form The Persuasions, taking its name from a passage in the Bible. Four of the five still perform today. (Fifth member Herbert "Toubo" Rhoad died in 1988.) "In the beginning we didn't have a name," Mr. Hayes says. "But one night I was browsing through the Bible and I saw the word 'persuader,' because Christ had to persuade a multitude of peoples.

"At this time, though, groups were all ending in 'ions' -- the Temptations, the Vibrations -- and I thought, 'We're going to have to persuade a multitude of people who think that a cappella music has been around and gone,' so I came up with The Persuasions. And we've been going with that for the last 43 years."

Although gospel music still provides the grounding for the group, over the years The Persuasions have performed music by everyone from the Beatles to Frank Zappa as well as their own compositions. Their newest CD, "Sing U2," showcases the music of the Irish band. Fans include the late Mr. Zappa, who recorded their first album, and director Spike Lee, who showcased their talent in the 1990 television special, "Do It A Cappella."

From the beginning, The Persuasions have relied on Mr. Hayes' unerring musical sense to provide the musical ground for the group's distinctively rich and warm harmonies. "We've never used a pitch pipe," Mr. Hayes says. "Whenever I start to sing, we're going to sing it in that key. We've been doing it for so long it's just a natural thing."

Posted by acapnews at November 17, 2005 9:05 PM