There’ve been many important guitarists – blues, jazz, rock. But when we’re talkin’ gospel guitar there’s one name that shines. Roebuck “Pops” Staples. His tremolo heavy open chords defined the gospel sound—and made a seamless transition into secular genres like funk and soul. A killer guitarist, he was also an accomplished singer and songwriter. Not surprising. He’d learned from the best.
As a young man he worked on the Dockery Plantation. That exposed him to the music of his fellow workers — legendary musicians Son House and Charley Patton. Pops was specifically enamored with Patton—picking up as many tricks as he could from the fire-headed originator.
First, Pops joined up with some gospel groups. Then as soon as his family grew big enough to make their own noise, he wrangled them up and started his own band. The Staple Singers. With his kids Cleo, Purvis, Yvonne and Mavis, he made songs like “Uncloudy Day.” Redefining how gospel could sound. But they didn’t just stick to gospel. Signing with Stax Records, The Staple Singers drummed up secular numbers that were fast-tracked to become super hits.
Yep, that’s the Staple Singers for you. Here’s another great one from their Stax days. Heavy Makes You Happy. Pops and his Staples Singers.
There’s a new Staples Singers Box Set out!