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Farewell to my Childhood’s Resident Celebrity

May 21, 2017


R.I.P. legendary Persuasions’ singer Jimmy Hayes
https://www.soultracks.com/story-jimmy-hayes-dies

They were a somewhat known a-capella group, and while perhaps not well known in younger pop circles, were at least big enough to guest-star for the backgrounds for Stevie Wonder’s “Please Don’t Go”, the closing track of Fulfillingness First Finale.
A couple years after that; I would say at least by ’76 or ’77, he and a few others from the group moved to the block I grew up on (and I believed that was where he still was; for the rest of his life; I would sometimes ask when visiting, and last time, a few years ago, was told he was still there), so they were like the resident celebrities.
We knew each other pretty well, and he would often be around, like when everyone was outside, and the adults would sit on the sidelines, or be in the superintendent’s shop or someone’s house, either hanging out, or playing cards. They even had my father and I and a few others go to the Electric Lady c.1978, to watch them rehearse. (My only time in the studio! It was also one of Stevie’s “homes” back in the Contract 2 era that ended with FFF. Marveled at the odd looking façade shape. Jimmy actually teased me there that night by announcing on the mic he was going to give me some T-shirt with an unhappy frog saying “I’m so happy, I could s___”; IIRC may well have looked like a forerunner to today’s “Pepe”; I was embarrassed because I had been conditioned to shun curse words!)

He was originally from Hopewell, Virginia, and my interest in the state had already been raised by my two summers at my aunt in Cumberland, and passing through or spending a day in nearby Richmond while there, and then seeing Norfolk and the rest of the huge looking urban areas on the map, and wondering what they was like. (And then, a “Norfolk by the Sea” brochure coming in the paper a year or two after my last trip there).
Even though Hopewell was closer to Richmond, he still knew about Norfolk, and so I got all my info from him, like the rough area being the Church St. corridor (Huntersville, so I already knew that when I arrived down there in college a couple of years later and had to pass through the nearby area to get downtown; they then began clearing it, and eventually building the current suburban-like neighborhood), and about the segregation on the beaches (likely Ocean View) in prior decades.

Since he worked with Stevie once; I thought it so interesting that I was only “two degrees of separation” from him! (Around the same time, the block and the neighboring lot on Flatbush where some stores burned down years before —and we used to play stickball; used to be visited by some older guy who was supposedly the father of “Thelma” on Good Times! Made me excited that I was only three degrees away from Janet Jackson, who played on the show and had become my dream girl when she greatly “blossomed” on the following show, Diff’rent Strokes).

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