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Born January 23, 1944, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jerry Lawson grew up in the small town of Apopka, where he began singing at age five with the church choir. In his teens he listened at night to WLAC out of Nashville. It was that station’s legendary R&B broadcasters that first introduced Lawson to the likes of Lloyd Price, Chuck Berry, Charles Brown, the Coasters, the Del-Vikings, and many more. “I knew every song,” Lawson says.
During the summers, Lawson would stay with family in Philadelphia, and he gradually felt the gravitational pull of New York City. He formed The Persuasions, five friends who quickly became well known in Brooklyn. After being introduced through a record storeowner, Frank Zappa convinced Lawson and The Persuasions to record with his label, Straight Records.
Zappa launched The Persuasions on a spectacular career. They made album after album over the next few decades, blending R&B, soul, pop, psychedelic rock, standards, doo-wop, jazz, and folk with just their voices. They sang with Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Chuck Berry, Rod Stewart, and dozens more stars in the firmament of popular music - helping keep a cappella singing alive, while setting a new standard for the genre. They paid tribute to artists as diverse as Zappa, the Grateful Dead, U2, and Bob Dylan on albums brilliantly arranged by Lawson. Chirpin', their 1977 release, was hailed by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 LPs of the 1970s. Through almost 40 years, 22 albums, and thousands of performances around the globe, Lawson’s sweet and smoky lead baritone and his electrifying stage charisma defined the group’s sound.
Following his departure from The Persuasions in 2003, Lawson connected with another vocal group, Talk of the Town. Together they recorded an album, Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town, as well as appeared on NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” reminding a new generation of music fans that Lawson should be on everyone’s list of all-time greats.
Now, at age 71, Lawson is finally releasing an album of music under his own name: a solo debut, titled Just a Mortal Man, to be released on East Nashville label Red Beet Records. With the help of Grammy-nominated producer Eric Brace, Lawson transforms a selection of new and classic songs with his astonishingly rich voice. This is a chance for the world to hear one of the greatest singers ever, front and center, as he has never been heard before. On Just a Mortal Man, Lawson covers songs recorded by soul greats David Ruffin and Bobby “Blue” Bland, as well as songs by Brace, Peter Cooper, Phil Lee, Ayo, and Paul Simon. The record features The McCrary Sisters and Jim Lauderdale as special guests, and will be released in June 2015.
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