Sunday, August 31, 2014

uncloudy day

The Staple Singers broke through the clouds with their seminal spiritual synthesis of soul, blues, gospel and folk.  Roebuck "Pops" Staples was born in Winona, Mississippi in 1915 and learned blues guitar from an early age.  He played with the Golden Trumpets in Mississippi before moving to Chicago with his wife Oceola.  There he played with the Trumpet Jubilees.  

Roebuck recalls:   "I was the first artist with a singing group to take the guitar and go into church, which they didn’t allow. And they had faith and believed in Pops Staples and the Staple Singers. You know, we wasn’t trying to start something for money or nothing. We were just singing because we love God’s word and we love God. We were singing for the praises of God. And the ministers could see that. They let us come in with the guitar, and that started the whole ball rolling. The Soul Stirrers, Blind Boys, Nightingales, Swan Silvertones, all of them – we would come to Chicago to sing on radio. They got to their songs, and I was on one end of the studio and had a guitar, and that was fascinating to them. The next time around, everybody came to Chicago had guitar. Something new, see? They had sung themselves out, went all over the world, just singing a cappella. And that was a new thing – the guitar was new! Now, they got guitar, bass, drum, everything."

He began singing with his four children Cleotha, Pervis, Yvonne, and Mavis Staples in churches around the midwest.  Radio show appearances led to the recording of a single  “These Are They”/”Faith and Grace” on Pops’ own label, Royal Records.  Another single "Won’t You Sit Down” on the local United label led to a contract with the Chicago-based Vee-Jay Records, which released the Staple Singers' first long-play album, titled 'Uncloudy Day', in 1959; the disc, number 5000, was additionally the first in the Vee-Jay Spiritual Series.

Pops says:  "The children were so young, they didn’t know how to sing in a key, what key, or nothin’. It’s four sounds, so I just took them and... I give them a note. I said, “Now you keep that. Hold it!” So she sings [sings an A]. Each one gets a note. When they all sing together, that makes a chord. That’s the way I taught them how to sing. I said, “Now you just keep that sound all the way through.” That’s the way I taught them – no music or nothin’. I hit the string where they should be – where this one should be and where that one should be. That’s the way I taught them how to make that music...Mavis was two years before we could get her – like I was hittin’ that sting – to hold her tune. For about two years, we kept on singing around the house. That’s the reason I said, “Never think about going on no road,” so we was just singin’ for ourselves. After about two years, Pervis and me was singing lead. Mavis was singing contralto, and then Pervis’ voice got too heavy for lead. I said, “Mavis, you try it.” And right then, when she hit the first song, I said, “That’s something.” I knew then. One of the guys said, “Staples, man, you sure got a good group” – that was when Pervis and me were singin’. He said, “You did right to leave the other group and start your family.” And I said, “Yeah, you think so? You just wait a minute – you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” Sure enough, about six more months, Mavis was taking off."

Mavis muses:    "As a child I would sing to myself all the time. I first learned You are my Sunshine and I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck, then it was anything I heard on the radio. I first sang in front of an audience when I was eight. We sang our song Will the Circle be Unbroken at my aunt Katy’s church in Chicago. We were just so happy to go sing somewhere other than our living room floor. The people liked us so much they clapped us back three times. It was the only song we knew and we had to play it all three times. Pops said: “Shucks, these people really like us, we’re going home to learn some new songs.” And we did. The rest is history...If I met the teenage Mavis now I’d see a very humble, friendly girl. By 16 I had already been singing with The Staples Singers for many years. I was singing on records, in front of thousands of people, travelling the country – my sisters and I always had different gowns and robes to wear. Life was beautiful at 16. Everyone wanted to know me, my friends wanted to talk to me. But I never got on any star-trip. Pops [Mavis’s father, Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples] taught us not to get a big head, not to think we’re better than anyone else...I grew up with many of my peers. Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick were childhood friends. I lived in the same neighbourhood as Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls. Sam had five brothers and one sister, Lou’s uncle, Reverend Rawls, had the Tabernacle Baptist Church and we’d sing there or stand under the streetlights and sing doo-wops...I’d tell my younger self she has so much to be grateful for. I’d tell her, God has blessed you by giving you this gift. You don’t even know what keys to sing in, you don’t know music but for you to be able to go out and sing the way you do, to have people admire you across the world, you are blessed. You have many, many wonderful days ahead. Love and treat everybody right. Keep your head up when things don’t go the way you want them to go. Have faith and think positive. And whatever the problem is, you can survive it because you’re a strong girl, you’re well loved, you have faith and you can conquer anything that comes your way."

Uncloudy Day

They tell me of a home far beyond the skies
And they tell me of a home far away
They tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
They tell me of an unclouded day

The land of cloudless days

The land of an unclouded sky
They tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
They tell me of an unclouded day

Will the Circle be Unbroken?

I was standing by my window

On a cold and cloudy day
When I saw the hearse come rollin'
For to take my mother away
Will the circle be unbroken?
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waitin'
In the sky Lord, in the sky
I told the undertaker
"Undertaker, please drive slow
For this lady that you're haulin' Lord
I hate to see her go."
Well I followed close behind
Tried to hold the family grace
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid herein the grave
I went back home, my house was lonesome
Cause my mother, she was gone
All my brothers, sisters, crying
What a home, so sad and lone
One by one the seats were empty
One by one they went away
Now my family, they are parted
Will they meet again someday
Will the circle be unbroken?
By and by Lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waitin'
In the sky Lord, in the sky

Let Me Ride

God's Wonderful Love

Help Me Jesus

I'm Coming Home

If I Could Hear My Mother

Low Is the Way

I Had a Dream

On My Way to Heaven

Going Away

I'm Leaning

I Know I Got Religion

Ain't That Good News

This May Be the Last Time

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Stand by Me

Come on Up in Glory

Pray On

Somebody Save Me

Each Day

So Soon

Too Close

Let's Go Home

Vee-Jay Records released the Staple Singers' first long-play album, titled 'Uncloudy Day', in 1959; the disc, number 5000, was additionally the first in the Vee-Jay Spiritual Series.
The songs for this video I selected from the album; they are
1) On My Way To Heaven;
2) Going Away;
3) I'm Leaning;
4) I Know I Got Religion.

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