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Roebuck "Pops" Staples

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Biography

Roebuck “Pops” Staples (Dec. 28, 1914 – Dec. 19, 2000), was the patriarch of the Staples family (aka The Staples Singers): daughters Mavis, Yvonne, and Cleotha and son Pervis. Roebuck sang and played a highly distinctive style of guitar, mixing acoustic, bluesy techniques (fingerpicking, bending notes in the manner of Mississippi Delta blues guitarists such as Charley Patton, Son House, and Garfield Akers) with amplified effects (principally tremolo, reminiscent of fellow Mississippi native Bo Diddley) on the electric guitar to produce a lyrical yet funky style that blended blues, gospel, and rhythm and blues.

Roebuck Staples was born on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi, the youngest of 14 children. When growing up he heard, and began to play with, local blues guitarists such as Charlie Patton, who lived on the nearby Dockery Plantation, Robert Johnson, and Son House. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade, and sang with a gospel group before marrying and moving to Chicago in 1935.

There he sang with the Trumpet Jubilees, while working in the stockyards, in construction work, and later in a steel mill. In 1948 he formed The Staple Singers to sing as a gospel group in local churches, with him singing and playing guitar behind his children. They first recorded in the early 1950s for United and then the larger VeeJay Records, with songs including “This May Be The Last Time” (later covered by The Rolling Stones) and “Uncloudy Day.

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