Roots & Blues Festival Preview – Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples has been a fixture in the blues and gospel genre since joining her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples and older siblings in the Staple Singers in 1950 when she was just 11 years old.

The Staple Singers began by touring churches in the Chicago area, but in 1952 signed their first record deal.  With Pops writing songs and playing the guitar and Mavis and her voice taking lead among the Staples children, the Staple Singers evolved from a popular gospel act into a very popular mainstream pop act.  This gained them the attention of some of the biggest names in music.  Legend has it Bob Dylan himself asked Mavis Staples for her hand in marriage the very first time he met her.

The Staple Singers were thrust further into the American consciousness through the close relationship between Pops Staples and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Staple Singers became the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement with songs like “March Up Freedom’s Highway”, “Why Am I Treated So Bad?” and “Respect Yourself.”

The Staple Singers were fresh off their chart topping take on Curtis Mayfield’s “Let’s Do It Again” when they were invited to join the Band in studio to collaborate on “The Weight” (a song by the Band the Staple Singers had recorded as well).  The performance was added to the Band’s famed “The Last Waltz” concert film.

The Staple Singers never again enjoyed the same level of commercial success, but their legacy was cemented in 1999 with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

In 2007, Mavis began a career resurgence as a solo performer (Pops Staples passed away in 2000) when she recorded the album “We’ll Never Turn Back” with blues & roots guitar legend Ry Cooder.  “We’ll Never Turn Back” is a concept album, featuring songs related to the Civil Rights Movement of which Mavis and her family were such a significant part.

Mavis followed the success of “We’ll Never Turn Back” with the album “You Are Not Alone” in 2010.  Produced by Jeff Tweedy (lead singer of the band Wilco), Mavis was once again lauded by critics, this time earning her first ever Grammy Award (in the category of Best Americana Album).

Mavis and Tweedy joined forces again for the 2013 release “One True Vine.”  Lauded by critics once again, Mavis entered the Billboard 200 charts at #67, the highest peaking position of her career.

Mavis still maintains an active touring schedule and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.  This will be her second time playing the Roots & Blues & BBQ Festival, following her slot in the 2011 lineup.  This year she’ll grace the Missouri Lottery Stage at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 22nd.

Heather Gerling (105 Posts)

Digital Marketing Assistant at StorageMart, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Lincoln University. Strongly believes you should never leave home without a book, and admits to having a coffee addiction.


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