Theola Kilgore

This Oakland, CA native began singing in church and developed into an in demand professional gospel singer in Oakland and surrounding areas. She befriended J. W. Alexander, Sam Cooke's manager who introduced her to singer/producer/writer Ed Townsend; with Townsend, Kilgore cut her first secular recording, an answer to Cooke's "Chain Gang," entitled "Sound of My Man Working on a Chain Gang," on Candix Records which attracted attention and some sells. She registered her biggest hit with her next record "The Love of My Man," an adaptation of "The Love of God," originally done by the Soul Stirrers with Johnny "Disco Lady" Taylor on lead vocals. The plaintive, direct ballad released on Serock Records, a subsidiary of Scepter Records, zoomed to #21 Pop and #3 R&B; its success place Kilgore on the chitling circuit and the R&B theater tours where she shared billings with the top names in R&B. Still with Townsend, Theola followed with "This Is My Prayer," on Serock which was just as good, sold well, but failed to surpass or equal the success of its predecessor. Theola & Ed formed KT Records (Kilgore/Townsend) where she released her next singles, none made much noise; later releases on Mercury Records went unnoticed as well. She recorded some tracks at Stax, that remains unreleased.. Of her post hit singles, only "I'll Keep Trying," and northern soul favorite "It's Gonna Be Alright," garnered any significant plays. Townsend hit as a singer in 1958 with "For Your Love," at #13 on the Pop chart. He later wrote and produced for acts that included the Impressions and Marvin Gaye. Townsend co-produced the Let's Get It On album, and according to Ed, also played a major role in the planning and production of Gaye's What's Going On LP but received zero credit. Probably because of a lawsuit Motown had pending with the Isley Brothers and Townsend. The Isley Brothers cut "It's Your Thing," at Townsends' recording studio in New Jersey while under contract to Motown; Motown won the suit and the rights to the song. Townsend suffered a severe setback during the court proceedings when his studio mysteriously went up in flames. Theola Kilgore whereabouts are unknown to most but good money says she's back in church singing her first love -- gospel. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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