Mavis Staples Siblings: The Story of the Staple Singers

An image of Mavis Staples
Learn the fascinating story of Mavis Staples siblings, the Staple Singers. Discover how they became the voice of the civil rights movement and a family of legends/IMAGE CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Mavis Staples is one of the most legendary singers in American history.

She rose to fame as a member of the Staple Singers, a family gospel and soul group that became the musical voice of the civil rights movement.

But who are Mavis Staples siblings, and what role did they play in the group’s success?

In this article, we will explore the lives and careers of Cleotha, Pervis, and Yvonne Staples, the talented siblings of Mavis Staples.

Mavis Staples Siblings

Cleotha Staples

An image of The Staples Singers
The Staples Singers in 1999. Pervis, far left; Cleotha, second from left; Pops, center; Mavis, second from right; and Yvonne, far right/IMAGE CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Cleotha Staples was born in Drew, Mississippi on April 11, 1934.

She was the eldest child of Roebuck “Pops” Staples and Oceola Staples.

She moved with her family to Chicago in 1936, where she started singing in church with her father and siblings.

Cleotha had a high, clear voice that blended beautifully with her father’s guitar and Mavis’s powerful lead vocals.

She was often called the “angelic voice” of the Staple Singers.

Cleotha was a founding member of the Staple Singers and sang with them for over four decades.

She recorded several gospel hits with the group in the 1950s and 1960s, such as “Uncloudy Day”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, and “Why Am I Treated So Bad”.

She also participated in the group’s transition to the soul and R&B in the late 1960s and 1970s, when they signed with Stax Records and scored pop hits like “I’ll Take You There”, “Respect Yourself”, and “Let’s Do It Again”.

Cleotha retired from performing in the late 1990s, due to her declining health.

She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for over a decade, and passed away on February 21, 2013, at the age of 78.

Pervis Staples

An image of Mavis and Pervis Staples
Mavis and Pervis Staples in 2017/IMAGE CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Pervis Staples was born on November 18, 1935, in Winona, Mississippi.

He was the second child of Roebuck and Oceola Staples, and the only son.

He moved with his family to Chicago in 1936, where he learned to play guitar from his father and sang in church with his sisters.

Pervis was the original leader of the Staple Singers and sang baritone and tenor in the group.

He also helped to arrange the group’s harmonies and songs4

Pervis was a key member of the Staple Singers and sang with them for over two decades.

He recorded several gospel hits with the group in the 1950s and 1960s, such as “This May Be the Last Time”, “Don’t Knock”, and “Freedom Highway”.

Pervis also influenced the group’s musical direction, introducing them to the folk and blues sounds of artists like Bob Dylan, Odetta, and Muddy Waters.

He also befriended Martin Luther King Jr. and encouraged the group to support the civil rights movement with their music.

Pervis left the Staple Singers in 1969, to pursue a career as a music producer and manager.

He was replaced by his sister Yvonne, who had been singing backup for the group.

He worked with artists like Curtis Mayfield, the Emotions, and the Dells, and founded his own label, Pervis Staples Productions.

Pervis also remained close to his family and occasionally performed with them.

He died on May 6, 2021, at the age of 85.

Yvonne Staples

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Yvonne Staples was born on October 23, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois.

She was the third child of Roebuck and Oceola Staples, and the youngest sister of Mavis, Cleotha, and Pervis.

Yvonne grew up singing in church with her family but did not join the Staple Singers until 1970 when she replaced her brother Pervis, who had left the group.

She sang alto and contralto in the group and also served as their business manager and spokesperson.

Yvonne was a loyal and dedicated member of the Staple Singers and sang with them for over four decades.

She recorded several soul and R&B hits with the group in the 1970s, such as “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)”, “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend”, and “I’ll Take You There”, which featured her distinctive “uh-huh” ad-lib.

She also performed with the group at various events and venues, such as the Wattstax Festival, the White House, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yvonne retired from performing in the early 2010s, due to her health issues.

She continued to support her sister Mavis, who had a successful solo career and often accompanied her on tour.

She died on April 10, 2018, at the age of 80.

Conclusion

Mavis Staples siblings were more than just her family, they were her musical partners and friends.

They shared a bond that was forged by their faith, their music, and their activism.

They were the Staple Singers, one of the most influential and beloved groups in American history.

The Staple Singers left a legacy that will never be forgotten and inspired generations of artists and fans.

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