Mavis Staples on Meeting Dr. Martin Luther King

Pops Staples with Martin Luther King Jr.

Today on the Cafe, the legendary Mavis Staples is our guest in a Vintage Cafe spotlight in observance of Martin Luther King day. While performing with The Staples Singers in the early 60s, Mavis and the family met Dr. King (that’s “Pops” Staples with him in the photo above). She described the story in an interview with North by Northwestern:

2010 2We first met Dr. King in Mongomery, Alabama in 1961. Pops [father Roebuck Staples] had been hearing Dr. King on the radio and he liked what he was hearing. So he called us to his room and told us that Dr. King was in Montgomery and invited us to the church. Afterward, Dr. King was standing at the door to shake the worshippers’ hands. Our sisters and I walked past Dr. King but Pops stood and talked. We get back to the hotel and Pops said,“Listen, I like this man’s message and I think that if he can preach it, we can sing it.” So we began writing freedom songs and message songs.

My fondest memory is his laughter. I can hear it right now, the tone of his laughter. Dr. King laughed so seldom. Most of the time I’d see him, he was looking serious or sad. To hear him laugh, my heart was happy because Dr. King was happy.

Listen to our 2010 interview with Mavis here.