Steve Cropper discusses Pops Staples’ underrated contributions: ‘Everybody wanted to copy that’

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After years of mostly distant admiration, Steve Cropper got a chance to work with Pops Staples on a full-length Stax project in 1969. Jammed Together, a trio collaboration that also included Albert King, proved to be a showcase of three of soul’s most distinctive guitar players.

You didn’t know Roebuck “Pops” Staples did more than sing? That’s a not uncommon thing in this modern age, when hope-streaked vocals beside his talented children on Staple Singers’ hits like “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There” tend to define Pops’ legend.

Steve Cropper knows better. “Most serious guitar players, especially the rhythm guys, must have listened to Roebuck,” Cropper says, in a new talk about the Staples patriarch. “Everybody wanted to copy that tremolo sound, because he was one of the first guys to do it.”

Pops Staples’ country-blues stylings are brought into high relief once more on Don’t Lose This, a forthcoming posthumous album featuring final 1999 recordings that have been completed by his daughter Mavis and her more recent collaborator Jeff Tweedy.

Who knows? It might just bring Pops Staples the long-deserved credit he’s always deserved as an instrumentalist. Either way, Cropper adds, the late Staples would have taken it in stride. “Pops was always modest,” Cropper says. “He’d never talk about how good he was. He just got up there and sang with the kids.”

Pops Staples’ Don’t Lose This is due Feb. 27, 2014 via Anti-/dBpm.

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