Introduction to Theola Kilgore
Theola Kilgore was an American soul and gospel singer. She had been singing gospel since she was younger but in the 1960s she recorded her first secular number ( as her answer to Sam Cooke’s 1960 hit “Chain Gang”) “The Sound Of My Man (Working On A Chain Gang).” In 1963 Kilgore achieved her biggest hit with “The Love Of My Man,” which is an adpated version of the Soul Stirrers’ original “The Love Of God.” After her follow-up single “This Is My Prayer” hitting the Billboard Hot 100, Kilgore and Townsend established their own label, KT, where Kilgore continued to record and release subsequent singles which didn’t chart at all. An eventual UK Northern soul favorite, “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” was one of Kilgore’s last singles. Kilgore died in 2005, in Los Angeles.
Singing spiritual songs
Theola Kilgore was an American soul and gospel music chanteuse. She was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1925, but was later brought up in Oakland, California. Kilgore began singing in churches, and not soon after she became an in-demand professional gospel singer. Her first-ever recording was “Look to the Hills,” where she was Mount Zion Spiritual Choir’s featured singer. She was billed as “Theola Kilgord.”
“Sound of My Man Working on a Chain Gang”
Around that time she met and befriended with Sam Cooke’s talent manager J.W. Alexander, who in turn led her to singer-songwriter and record producer Ed Townsend. After having sung a lot of gospel songs in the past, Kilgore got to cut her first secular record. Her first single was “Sound of My Man Working on a Chain Gang,” her answer to Cooke’s 1960 hit “Chain Gang.” Sam Cooke also wrote “Sound of My Man Working on a Chain Gang.” Released on Candix label, it attracted some amount of attention and received modest sales.
“The Love of My Man”
In 1963 Kilgore achieved the highest chart hit in her career via the single “The Love of My Man,” written by Townsend. It was Kilgore’s more secular adaptation of the Soul Stirrers’ “The Love of God.” Still, the gospel influence was still present in the record. The plaintive, straightforward ballad was released on Scepter’s subsidiary Serock. It went to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #3 on the R&B singles chart. Etta James had been known to cover this song.
Its success allowed Kilgore to have a place on the flourishing “chitlin'” circuit and R&B/soul theater tours where she shared billings with top R&B names during the era.
Her follow-up to “The Love of My Man” was “This Is My Prayer,” which was also written by Townsend. After the song peaked at #60 on the pop chart in 1963, she and Townsend established their own record label named KT. Her later efforts became unsuccessful, although she was still actively touring.
Kilgore died in Los Angeles, California on May 15, 2005.