The Reverend Claude Jeter, lead vocalist of The Swan Silvertones, was one of the true pioneers and geniuses of contemporary singing and harmony. While he sang strictly within the genre of Gospel, he helped create the template for the quartet style emulated across both gospel and popular music. His style is still heard today in so many artists that many are likely to be unaware of this enormously influential man and style of singing he handed down to them.
The first time I heard The Swan Silvertones I was in my early 20's. It stopped me in my tracks then as much as it does today. If I were to compare them with anyone, I would have to say that they were the Beatles of gospel music. The magic contained on every one of their recordings, particularly during their VeeJay years, is unsurpassed in any genre music. Rarely a week goes by that I don't listen to one or two of their songs to get me through the day. The energy, the beauty, and the breathtaking soul of their music has lost none of it's vitality.
In early 2008 I began my search for Reverend Jeter who, from everything I had read, was still alive - somewhere. In August 2008, I was able to locate him at The Daughters of Jacob Hospital in the Bronx, NY. Unfortunately, by the time I finally located him he was no longer able to communicate. I returned again on his 94th birthday on October 26th, this time bringing along some of the Swans music so that his caretakers (who were unaware of his past) might at least know what an enormously talented and profoundly influential artist he was. It was while leaving his room for the last time, Room 1009, that I began thinking about his enormous contribution to the arts and how, in his final days, he was a largely forgotten man. A man without visitors. A man alone. Just the man in Room 1009. From that, came the song.
As for Jerry Lawson's involvement, that's a miracle in itself. I had become friends with his wife Julie in 2007 after the release of his phenomenal album Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town. She then introduced me to the man himself - Jerry Lawson! Lead vocalist of the legendary Persuasions for nearly 40 years. As with the Swan Silvertones, Jerry's music with the Persuasions formed the bedrock for much of what I listened to in my early years.
In April 2008 I found myself between jobs (as is my wont) so I grabbed my guitar and hopped a plane to Arizona to meet Jerry. We spent an amazing weekend together playing music and talking. Being just brazen enough, I asked Jerry if he would be interested adding vocals to one or two songs when I began work on my next album. True to Jerry's enormous generosity, he said he would love to! While I was deeply honored to have such an opportunity, I knew I had to present him with a song worthy of his enormous talents. As fate would have it, my meeting the Reverend Jeter at about this same time gave me impetus for a song, and believe me when I say that NO ONE could have brought to life 'The Man in Room 1009' the way Jerry did! Jerry explained it this way, "Jim, you gave birth to the baby and I delivered it. I slapped it on it's ass!"
And that is the story of how this amazing recording came to be.
One of the orginal goals for this song was to be able to play it for Reverend Jeter before he passed away. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But as Jerry said, "Reverend Jeter was with us in spirit during the recording of this song", which the results, I feel, bare out.