Mavis Staples performed last night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla. It was the first of three scheduled performances that will take place as part of the grand opening weekend of the Bob Dylan Center, which opens to the public on May 10.
“We’re so happy to see you, we’re so happy to be here,” Staples said from the stage. “I came out to have a good time.”
During Staples’ performance with her five-piece band, she noted that she had visited the Dylan Center earlier in the day. “I’ve been over to the Dylan Center … oh, my gosh,” she said. “I had the best time today.”
The legendary singer also visited Tulsa’s Church Studios, which was built by Leon Russell in 1972 and has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, JJ Cale, Freddie King and Dylan over the years. “I think it made me want to move to Tulsa,” Staples said.
Staples and Dylan’s history reaches back to 1953 when a teenage Dylan first heard the Staples Singers on the radio in Minnesota. Mavis’ voice stood out to him on songs like “Uncloudy Day. “It was the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard,” he later told AARP magazine. “It was like the fog rolling in. … I knew who Mavis was without having to be told. Her singing just knocked me out.”
The pair enjoyed a close relationship for several years, though Staples reportedly turned down his offer of marriage. “I often think about what would have happened if I’d married Bobby, though,” she told The Guardian in 2016. “If we’d had some little plum-crushers, how our lives would be. The kids would be singing now, and Bobby and I would be holding each other up.”
Staples sang on Dylan’s 1979 album, Slow Train Coming, and most recently opened for him on his 2017 tour.
Patti Smith will continue the Dylan Center’s opening-weekend festivities with a performance this evening, followed by Elvis Costello on Saturday.
Bob Dylan Center Photos
A look at some of the material on display at the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Okla.