Neville Eugenton Staple (born 11 April 1955) is a Jamaican-born English singer, known for his work with the 2 Toneska band the Specials, as well as with his own group the Neville Staple Band. He also performed with Ranking Roger in the supergroup Special Beat.
Staple was born in Manchester, Jamaica. He left Jamaica to live in the English town of Rugby, Warwickshire at the age of five but later moved to Coventry. Neville was a regular fixture at the Locarno Ballroom in Coventry, where he met the resident DJ there, Pete Waterman. Waterman briefly managed the Specials and would later write the foreword to Staple’s 2009 biography, Original Rude Boy.
Staple’s early vocal style was mostly “toasting“—or chanting over a rhythm—a forerunner of rapping brought to Britain in the 1960s by musicians from Jamaica. Staple honed his toasting skills in the sound system scene in Coventry during the 1970s, first on his cousin’s “Messenger Sound” and later his own system called “Jah Baddis”.
Staple’s first involvement with the Specials was when they were still called the Coventry Automatics. Initially employed as their roadie, Staple joined the band on stage at a gig supporting the Clash. At that point, the line-up already included Jerry Dammers, Horace Panter and Silverton Hutchinson on drums. Terry Hall subsequently came in as vocalist, replacing Tim Strickland, and Roddy Radiation joined on lead guitar. John Bradbury would later take over on drums from Silverton.
In the Specials, Staple sang lead vocals on some tracks or additional and backing vocals alongside Terry Hall’s lead. He also contributed to the writing of many of their songs, but rarely received credit.
The Specials were managed for a time by the Clash’s manager, Bernard Rhodes, of whom Staple toasted “Bernie Rhodes knows don’t argue” at the beginning of the Specials’ hit single “Gangsters”. However, Staple has said that the lyric is actually “Bernie Rhodes’ nose”, rather than “knows”, as the size of his nose was always a topic of great amusement amongst the band members.
When the Specials initially split up, Staple departed with Terry Hall and Lynval Golding to form Fun Boy Three. They had a string of chart hits, some in collaboration with the all-female trio Bananarama.