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Mavis Staples was surprised to learn that Eureka Springs’ blues festival, now dubbed Blues Eureka, was in its 19th year. “Whoa,” she exclaimed to a caller.
“This is my very first time to attend,” she said. “I guess they hadn’t heard of the Staple Singers down there before. I’m grateful to be invited.”
Mavis and her sister, Yvonne, are the only original performing Staple Singers left from the group that charted several Top 10 R&B hits in the 1970s and eventually were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But though Pops Staples is gone and her other siblings have retired, Mavis is still singing strong with Yvonne and the three-piece Staple Swingers Band. She even released a new album this year, “Have a Little Faith,” and recently picked up three W.C. Handy Awards, including Soul/Blues Album of the Year and Female Soul/Blues Singer of the Year. She’s also proud of the lifetime achievement award the Staple Singers received at the Grammy Awards earlier this year.
Mavis Staples will perform Friday, June 3, at City Auditorium along with young blues star Shemekia Copeland, a multiple Handy Award winner. The three-time Grammy winning Blind Boys of Alabama will perform Saturday, June 4. Tickets for each show are $55; a two-show package is $90. Also, clubs throughout Eureka Springs will also be featuring top blues performers each night as Blues Eureka runs June 2-6.
“When my father passed and I started to sing alone, Yvonne said, ‘you go on and sing, I’ll take care of your business,’ ” Mavis said. “I tried that, but after coming off the stage three times, I finally told Yvonne, ‘you’re going to have to sing, I’ve got to have one Staples voice up there with me.’ After singing with the family for 50 years and then being out alone, it was very uncomfortable.”
Mavis Staples was born in Chicago after Pops Staples moved the family from Mississippi. They recorded gospel and R&B on the Warner Bros. label, but it was Arkansas native Al Bell and Memphis’ Stax Records that brought the Staple Singers sound to the masses with such hits as “I’ll Take You There,” “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me),” “Let’s Do It Again” and “Respect Yourself.”
Saturday’s show will feature all Staples songs along with the Band’s “The Weight” she said. The Staple Singers were featured along with the band singing that classic in the 1976 movie “The Last Waltz.”
Mavis said she’s excited to be on the same show with Copeland. “I adopted Shemekia, she’s such a sweetheart. She has such a big voice. I admire such a young lady like Shemekia, I want to see the young people continue the blues. ... She has what it takes.”
Music will also be featured at Chelsea’s Tavern (Patrick Sweeney and the Mescal Brothers all weekend), the Lumber Yard, Shaw’s tavern, Shawbee’s, Tiki Torch (including Anthony Gomes on Friday night and the Steady Rolling Band and Scott Holt on Saturday night), the Quarter, Eureka Live and the Basin Park Hotel. For a complete listing of Blues Eureka Festival performances and events, visit www.eurekasprings.org. For tickets to the Auditorium shows, call 888-855-7823 or visit www.theaud.org.