Two members of The Persuasions – also known as “The Kings of A Cappella” – were honored in Brooklyn, New York on August 25.
Jayotis Washington, who joined the group as its first tenor in the early 1960s, was honored with an EarlyRnB.com Lifetime Achievement Award. Dave Revels, the group’s current lead singer, was honored with an EarlyRnB.com Keeping the Music Alive Award. In addition to his work with The Persuasions, Revels has performed with The Drifters and he produces a show called Shadows of the ‘60s – Tribute to Motown Super Groups.
Revels said of the award, “I appreciate it very much. Any time you get recognition for your work it’s a good thing.”
Washington, who was also interviewed at length by EarlyRnB.com, added, “It’s an honor being here. It’s good to be remembered.”
The certificates were handed out at Greene Playground, at the corner of Greene Avenue and Waverly Avenue, one of numerous spots where Washington and crew worked on their vocal harmonies long before any record company executives knew of their existence.
“This is like coming full circle for him,” said Revels. Washington said he “hadn’t been there since” the good ol’ days and as he sat on a park bench, he thought about “a lot of people in my mind,” including guys who sang with him at that spot before The Persuasions were narrowed down to the original line-up of Washington, Jerry Lawson, Jimmy Hayes, “Sweet” Joe Russell and Herbert “Toubo” Rhoad.
The Persuasions have been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, but Revels noted, “It’s really hard to qualify your award that you gave us to anyone else’s, because everything comes along at the right time and a time that’s appropriate.”
He added, “You recognized the group right now because this is now seven decades of the group’s history. That’s very important. It is timely, because so many years have passed since the group’s origination, so many members have passed away, and there’s only one original left. I’m very happy that you’re giving Jayotis this recognition because he is the last member standing with the history, so that’s very important that he’s remembered right now.”
Washington hasn’t yet decided if he’ll hang the glossy certificate in his home or give it to one of his children. However, he was very impressed.
“I’ll tell you something. It was colorful,” said Washington.
The Persuasions remained dedicated to A Cappella music (no instruments backing them) when almost no other R&B groups did.
“There was no other group that stayed the course,” said Washington, who is clearly proud of the group’s longtime dedication to pure vocals.
“I think when people came to see us, that became a good thing,” he said. “And it was like our album, Spread the Word. People spread the word.”
Washington knows the group might have attained greater fame had it added instruments to the music, but “that kind of shows you it wasn’t about the money, because there were other groups that tried it, that started A Cappella, but then they didn’t continue it.”
Washington and Revels have known one another for decades, long before Revels joined The Persuasions as an official member in 2006. Revels grew up in Brooklyn and when he formed a singing group as a teenager, one of the members told Revels he knew Persuasions member Jayotis Washington. Soon after, a 14 or 15-year-old Revels struck up a friendship with The Persuasions’ first tenor.
“First of all, he was a nice guy,” said Washington. “And he and his guys, they were singing, and he came to my house, and he started singing, but everybody was on the same note. Everybody. I said, where’s the harmony? I liked the fact that he came and looked for me like that, I liked that, so I gave him some ideas as to what harmony sounds like, the same way I was taught.”
Fast forward decades later, the two men have made numerous Persuasions albums together. In addition, The Persuasions still entertain crowds near and far. The group’s next gig is on November 30 at The Tin Pan in Richmond, Virginia. The current line-up of the group consists of Revels, lead and second tenor, Washington, who now sings baritone, Cliff Dawson, tenor, Lawrence Anthony, bass, Sam White, baritone, and Raymond Sanders, first tenor.
Washington takes pride in the fact “we created a niche in the industry.”
He added, “When a few of the members of Take 6 and Boyz II Men came into our dressing rooms, just by coming into our dressing room, it felt good, trying to get information or to see what we could do for them, them liking us, you know, it’s a good feeling.”
EarlyRnB.com would like to thank Dave Revels for meeting us at The Barclays Center subway stop, picking us up and pointing out some of Brooklyn’s sites before getting Jayotis and heading to Greene Playground. We would also like to thank Jayotis for his time as well as acknowledge David Backer, manager of The Persuasions, for his role in connecting us with Revels and Washington.