Fusing Gospel, Blues, and Folk influences with positive messages, the two-generation family act the Staple Singers produced some of the most unique and critically acclaimed R&B hits of the 1970s.
The Staple Singers’ roots go back to the childhood of family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples, who learned Blues guitar growing up in 1920s Mississippi. He entertained locally and as a young man began singing and playing with various Gospel outfits, eventually moving to Chicago in the early 1940s. By 1948 he was performing with children Cleotha, Mavis, and Pervis at local churches under the Staple Singers name (spelled Staple, though the family name was Staples).
The group's recording career began in 1956, with their early releases showcasing their close vocal harmonies backed by Pops’ Bluesy guitar, which was often slathered in tremolo. In the 60s the group’s sound evolved to include elements of the then-current Folk revival. But it was in the late 1960s that the band found mainstream success, after signing to Memphis’ Stax Records.
Initially the Staples’ work at Stax continued their Soul/Folk approach, but in 1970 the band switched direction (with sister Yvonne Staples replacing brother Pervis) and began recording in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. That produced a funkier, Soul-influenced sound and a number of hits, including the self-empowering "Respect Yourself," the Gospel-influenced "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)," and "I'll Take You There," which reached No. 1 in 1972.
After the demise of Stax, the Staple Singers recorded with several different labels, including Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom, where they had their second No. 1 with 1975s "Let's Do It Again." After that the hits slowed, though the group did make a final chart appearance in 1984 with an unlikely cover of Talking Heads' "Slippery People."
The Staple Singers continued to record and tour until the death of Pops Staples in 2000. Since then Mavis Staples has released numerous solo albums, including several collaborations with Jeff Tweedy from the Rock band Wilco.