Originally signing to the Vee-Jay label in 1953 with The Staple Singers. In 1956 they had their first smash hit "Uncloudy day" featuring the teenage Mavis on lead vocals. Other hits in the 1950's included "Will the circle be unbroken?" and "This may be the last time" (the latter covered and made famous by The Rolling Stones).
In the 1960's the band became aligned with the burgeoning American Civil Rights movement and recorded protest songs such as "March up Freedom's Highway" and "Washington we're watching you". For most of the 1960's Mavis dated Bob Dylan and the Staple Singers covered many of their songs with Dylan also covering their own "Dying man's prayer" in 1962.
The Staple Singers had their most popular period during the 1970's with smash hits "Respect yourself", "I'll take you there" and "Let's do it again".