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Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Roebuck "Pops" Staples and the Staple Singers


Roebuck "Pops" Staples (1914-2000) and the Staple Singers Pops Staples, winner of 1999 Mississippi Arts and Letters Special Award

Major Works

  • Let's Do it Again
  • I'll Take You There
  • Father Father
  • Amen
  • Use What You Got
  • People Get Ready
  • Why Am I Treated So Bad
  • Hope in a Hopeless World
  • Getting too Big for Your Britches
  • Gotta Serve Somebody
  • Jesus Is Going to Make up (My Dying Bed)
  • Waiting for My Child
  • Downward Road
  • Simple Man
  • Glory Glory 

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Pop Staples and the Staples SingersRoebuck "Pops" Staples and the Staple Singers: A Biography
By Cedric Ward (SHS)

Born in 1914 in Winona, Mississippi, Roebuck "Pops"  Staples' introduction to music was from a  traditional, inspirational source.  He says, "The first music that I listened to was acapella singing in the churches. I was always into gospel right from a boy on up. I got into  blues stuff after gospel, when I got to be 12, 13, 15 year  old. I heard those guys singing the blues, and that's when I picked up the guitar and tried to learn how to play."   After numerous great gospel and soul recordings for VeeJay, Riverside, Epic, and Stax from the early 1950's on as the father and leader of the Staple Singers, Pops Staples has started a solo career.

In 1991, Staples began  extensive touring as a solo artist. In 1992, The Staple Singers toured Europe; and in 1993,  they were among the highlights of both the  Chicago Blues FestivalCedric Ward, SHS Researcher and the Pointblank Borderline Blues Festival.  Now in his early 80's, Staples' musical spirit and busy  schedule continue to amaze. The original  group name was "Staple,"  but the singers' names are "Staples."  Staples  has recorded two CD's  for Pointblank. Most of the tunes are by Pops, and some of these were recorded previously by the Singers.  His  career has covered fifty years.  As  a solo artist and as leader of the  Staple Singers, his music is a  blend of melody and message. Explains Staples,  "Affirmative music was just a thought I had to myself  that I could sing something and get people to listen, and  maybe they would be better to one another."  He is a songwriter and guitarist who has influenced  pop, rock, R&B, blues, and especially gospel music. In the 1930's, Staples pioneered the use of blues guitar in gospel music, and in the 1960's he aroused the anger of traditionalists  by successfully moving from purely gospel material to creating music with a wider message and appeal.

Father Father, his 1994 Grammy winning release, is a high point in his career. The followup to his acclaimed Grammy-nominated 1992  Pointblank debut, Peace To The Neighborhood, an album  called Father Father shows the power of Staples' soft touch and strong  beliefs.   Father Father includes  "Why Am I Treated So Bad," and  "Waiting For My Child."   Also  joining Staples on the albumFather, Father cover Father Father are several well-known guests. Songs such as  spirituals "Jesus Is Going To Make Up (My Dying Bed)" and "The Downward Road"  include  guitar work by Ry Cooder, drums by Jim Keltner, and harmony by The Paramount  Singers. The rest of the Staple Singers -- daughters Mavis, Yvonne, and Cleotha -- also sing on the title track. Daughter Mavis Staples  joins her father in  "Hope In A Hopeless World."   In addition to new Pops Staples's  originals, Father Father  features cover versions of Curtis Mayfield's classic "People Get Ready"  and Bob Dylan's "You Got To Serve Somebody."  He has also appeared in three films:  Wag the Dog, Three Stories, and a video called Pops Staples --Live in Concert.

In 1999, Roebuck "Pops" Staples was awarded the Mississippi Arts and Letters Special Award for his contribution to music. At age 80, Staples received a Grammy Award in the Contemporary Blues category for Father Father, his second Pointblank album. The Widespread Panic debut single, "Hope In A Hopeless World," is a remake of the song by gospel/blues legend Pops Staples. The members of Widespread Panic heard and met Staples at a Milwaukee Summerfest concert. Roebuck Staples died on December 19, 2000, in Chicago at the age of 84. He had been living in Dolton, Illinois.  He will be remembered for many things, among them his song writing, his singing, and his guitar playing, (which fused gospel with the blues), and his gospel and rhythm-and-blues group, the Staple Singers.

UPDATE 2011

Mavis Staples, daughter of Roebuck Staples

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples continues to thrill audiences with her soulful and powerful voice. Named one of the 100 greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone and 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll by VH1, Staples commands the sort of respect that earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for The Staple Singers, for which Mavis was lead singer. Her new album lives up to those lofty standards. Produced by Jeff Tweedy, front man for Wilco, the album, You Are Not Alone, is receiving rave reviews, from critics and fans alike. From original songs written by Tweedy to classic old Staple Singers numbers, the album’s lineup demonstrates the full range of Staples’ undeniable talent.

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Related Websites

Review of Pops Staples's Father, Father, Pointblank CD 39638, which was nominated for 1992 Grammy for Best Contemporary.  It is gospel-driven soul by a seventy-year-old veteran.

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Last updated January 12, 2011
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