Pervis Staples, Who Harmonized With the Staple Singers, Dies at 85

Pervis Staples, Who Harmonized With the Staple Singers, Dies at 85

But by that time, Pervis had left to pursue his own ventures.

He tried his hand as an agent, representing the R&B group the Emotions, and opened Perv’s Place, a nightclub in Chicago that was popular in the mid-1970s, before the rise of disco.

He rejoined the family group when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Pervis Staples was born on Nov. 18, 1935, in Drew, in western Mississippi, and raised in Chicago. His father shoveled fertilizer in stockyards and laid bricks before putting the family vocal group together. Pervis’s mother, Oceola (Ware) Staples, worked as a maid and laundress at a hotel.

He attended grammar school with the future singing stars Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls. After class, Pervis and his friends would practice singing under street lamps and in Cooke’s basement. The boys had voices so sweet, “they could make the mice come down the pole and watch,” he told Mr. Kot.

When Roebuck Staples formed the Staple Singers in 1948, Pervis sang second lead and hit the high notes. He was replaced as second lead by Mavis when his voice dropped an octave during puberty.

Pervis Staples graduated from Dunbar Vocational High School in 1954. He was drafted into the Army in 1958 and honorably discharged in 1960.

Another sister, Yvonne, replaced Pervis when he left the Staple Singers. After Perv’s Place closed, he remained active in the music business.

Mr. Staples’s two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his sister Mavis, who is now the last surviving member of the Staple Singers, as well as five daughters, Gwen Staples, Reverly Staples, Perleta Sanders, Paris Staples and Eala Sams; a son, Pervis; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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