The Rip Post                                                                                              


I heard Jerry Lawson and the Persuasions before I met them. It was in 1970. They had no record deal. They had no manager. They had no aspirations. A tape of an amateur acapella concert was blaring from a louds[eaker outside a record store in Jersey City. I stopped,listened and knew what I had to do. I would spend the next 8 years trying to introduce the world to the magic of this music. This first meant convincing The Persuasions to quit their day jobs,go into a recording studio with me and hit the road in a rented Torino . I still hadn't met them yet.

It was only after I played the tape of that amateur event to Frank Zappa who gave us a deal on his newly formed Straight Records, that I convinced the owner of the Ash Grove in Los Angeles to let the Persuasions open for Lightnin Hopkins. I still hadn't met them yet. I bought them stage clothes as was the custom in those days,paid for 5 one way tickets to California,rented them rooms at the Tropicana,next to Tom Waits and introduced myself to them over breakfast at Duke's. 'I want to manage you guys",I announced. Jerry asked me if I was Jewish. We shook hands. It was the only contract we ever had for the eight years and seven albums with five labels that ever existed.

Fifty years later I sat with Jerry in his living room laughing and crying about those days. Jerry Lawson was the greatest soul man I ever heard. It was as if David Ruffin,Sam Cooke,Jerry Butler and Solomon Burke donated genes to create some supernatural synthesis. His voice was the auditory history of r&b. It was at once defiant, solicitous, smooth when it had to be and rough when raw was required. He could sell a song because he had lived that song. The pain and imperfection of his reality was on display when he took the stage.

I never wanted to put music behind him because I thought it would get in the way. In spite of our efforts the Persuasions had a metric rise to the middle,never achieving the fame or fortune I I promised them. At his 75th he called me close to him and whispered "We did it,David!". We hugged and wept. Two old guys. A Jew and a black man who had fifty years earlier had made an unspoken promise . My job was to get him out there His job was to do everything else. And that you did, Jerry Lawson, that you did.


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