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Pops Staples Honored with Mississippi Blues Trail Marker

Monica Land | 12/22/2010, 1:32 a.m.
Pops Staples one of the foremost figures in American gospel music as a singer, guitarist, and founder of The Staple Singers family group, was honored by his hometown - Winona, Miss. Courtesy Photo

Since the early 1950s, Pops Staples and The Staple Singers, have been recognized worldwide for their soul-stirring lyrics and their countless contributions to the music industry. They've won numerous awards and accolades and in 1999, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And, recently, in a modest and simple ceremony in Winona, Miss., Pops Staples, the patriarch of the gospel and later, R&B group, was honored by his hometown with the 120th marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail.

Pops Staples was one of the foremost figures in American gospel music as a singer, guitarist, and founder of The Staple Singers family group. The group originally consisted of Pops and three of his four children - his son, Pervis, and daughters, Cleotha and Mavis. Reportedly, a third daughter, Yvonne, joined the group in 1958 after Pervis enlisted in the Army.

Signing their first professional contract in 1952, The Staple Singers first recorded acoustic gospel-style music with various labels, but they moved into the mainstream pop market during the 1960s and recorded, Why (Am I Treated So Bad) and For What It's Worth.

In 1968, the group signed with Stax Records and their career exploded with several chart-topping hits including, Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom), Respect Yourself, I'll Take You There and If You're Ready (Come Go With Me).

In 1975 and after Stax went bankrupt, they signed with Curtis Mayfield's label, Curtom, and released several singles on the motion picture soundtrack, Let's Do It Again.

In Pops' honor, the blues marker ceremony was held on Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Montgomery County Courthouse, in Winona, with several public and city officials speaking. The unveiling of the marker took place outside on the courthouse grounds with representatives from Montgomery County, the Mississippi Development Authority and the public, showing their support despite the cold and rainy weather.
Sue Stidham, Director of the Economic Development Partnership, in Winona, chaired the program and recognized Senator Lydia Chassaniol (R-MS), who spearheaded the campaign for the marker, as well as Jim Lyles, of Entergy, and David Putnam, of Winona, for their financial contributions toward the blues marker.

During the ceremony, Chassaniol, who heads tourism for the state, spoke fondly of meeting Pops Staples at the governor's mansion, in Jackson, in 1999. Chassaniol said Staples was "a delightful gentleman," and it was honor to recognize someone from her community.
"I didn't realize Pops Staples was a Winona native until I got to meet him in 1999," she said. "And later that afternoon, Marty Stuart, another Mississippi notable, was also receiving an award and after the ceremony, both of these musical icons, Marty and Pops Staples, got up and gave an impromptu concert for the people in the audience. And I thought, 'Where else but in Mississippi could you have two fabulous talents like [them] get up and do that?' I get goosebumps just thinking about it today. And, I'm so grateful that we're able to recognize and honor the life and talent of Pops Staples here in Winona."

Alex Thomas, Program Manager for the State of Mississippi, Mississippi Development Authority, agreed. "We recognized Pops in 1999, at the governor's awards," Thomas said. "But I think for a long time, the state has not really embraced these artists that have come from places like Montgomery County, Tunica County, and DeSoto County. All of these places have gotten quite a bit of recognition for many things, but for the artists that have come out of their own back yard and that have gone out and made great names for themselves, we have not given them the homage and honor they deserve and Pops Staples is one of those guys."