pops staples

Pops Staples at the Chicago Blues Fest on June 8, 1986.
Photo by Kirk West / Archive Photos / Getty Images

The gospel guitarist who took his tremolo-shaken country blues from Sunday mass to the masses.

Whenever you hear country blues-inflected guitar played through an amp with tremolo, you’re hearing a sound descended from singer/composer/guitarist Pops Staples. Best known as the leader of a family gospel group, the Staple Singers, his guitar style influenced and inspired John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, and countless others. The dark mystery of his instrument’s wavy sound has become part of the fabric of American music.

Roebuck Staples, known as “Pops,” was born to Warren and Florence Staples on December 28, 1914, on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi. Roebuck and his older brother Sears were named after the Chicago mail-order company that supplied millions of rural Americans with everything from washing machines to musical instruments.

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Why Fender + Fender (or other brands) = more than the sum of their own signature sounds.

This column is not for the faint of back, but the rewards of such potentially heavy lifting are great. In my previous columns "Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate: Classic Guitar & Fender-Amp Pairings" (May 2020) and "Finding Perfect Tones in Imperfect Amps" (January 2021), I've discussed classic Fender amp and guitar pairings and how to EQ and tweak amps to get ideal tones. Let's take it a step further and discuss how to combine multiple amps to achieve even more complex, richer tones.

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Intermediate

Beginner

  • Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
  • Understand how to play "over the bar line."
  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.
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