Friday was was a travel day for us. We drove from Albany, Georgia to Grenada, Mississippi, avoiding interstates as much as possible which resulted in a lovely drive through farm country. We did manage one music stop in a pretty little town called Winona, Mississippi. There we found our first blues marker of the trip–Roebuck “Pops” Staples.
I have only discovered recently how revered Pops is in music circles for his one of a kind tremelo sound. John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival cites Pops as his number one influence. I recently read a biography of the Staple Singers, and Pops was the controller. He grew up in an era when to sing blues was to sing “devil” music, which is why the Staples leaned toward gospel in their early days. This would change over time, however, and the gospel audience was not happy with Pops when the band ventured into more popular forms of music. They were the voice of the Civil Rights Movement, which restored their credibility.
He was born in Winona, but then moved to Dockery Farms plantation, the Birthplace of Blues music. Our plan is to visit Dockery today, so I will leave further history until after the visit. Meanwhile, enjoy some of Pops’ mighty fine guitar playing on a song connected to the Underground Railroad, “Wade in the Water.” (The belief is Harriet Tubman would sing this to signal runaway slaves to walk in the river so the dogs couldn’t trace them.)