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Willie Kitchens

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Information about Willie Kitchens

Profile image of Willie Kitchens

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Gospel Musician
Music Director
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Favorite Quote:
If He Hung Out There, We Ought To Be Able To At Least Hang In There.

Birthplace

Born:
1/6/1956
Birth Location:
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Gospel Musician
Music Director
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Soul Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Favorite Quote:
If He Hung Out There, We Ought To Be Able To At Least Hang In There.

Birthplace

Born:
1/6/1956
Birth Location:
Chattanooga
See how Willie Kitchens is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born on January 6, 1956, to a musical family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Willie David Kitchens, Jr., fell in love with music at an early age. At age seven, Kitchens began singing at community churches with his sisters and his father, a guitarist with the gospel group Five Sons of Calvary. Kitchens soon became a member of the Rosebud Choir at his family’s church, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist. Willie Kitchens, Sr. taught his son to play guitar when he was ten, and at sixteen the younger Kitchens joined the Five Sons of Calvary as bass guitarist and background vocalist.

With the Five Sons, Kitchens performed with groups including the Swan Silvertones, the Brooklyn All-Stars, and the Jackson Southernaires. Diversifying his repertoire, Kitchens joined the funk band at Howard High School as lead guitarist and lead vocalist while continuing to perform gospel at church and with the Five Sons. After graduating high school, Kitchens attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

At age twenty-four, Kitchens began to concentrate on gospel performance. Over the years, he taught himself to play the harmonica, piano, and electric keyboards. Kitchens performed and ministered everywhere from “Bobby Jones Gospel” to colleges, to prisons.

In 1995, Kitchens became Music and Performing Arts Director for the Bethlehem Center, a ministry in inner-city Chattanooga; there he created a traveling youth choir for children from two to eighteen years of age and opened the Bethlehem Recording Studio for the Bethlehem Center’s radio and television programs. Kitchens’s choir recorded four albums, three of them at the Bethlehem Recording Studio. Kitchens also performed for luminaries including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In December 1999, Kitchens joined Samuel Gooden, Fred Cash, and Vandy Hampton in the Impressions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rhythm and blues group that launched Curtis Mayfield’s career. In 2001, the Impressions toured with Eric Clapton.

Kitchens served as lead vocalist for the group—the role that Mayfield filled from 1963-1970. Kitchens, a long-term resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee, left the Impressions in 2002 and went on to work for the Bethlehem Center, where he served as the executive director of the Bethlehem Center Mass Choir and minister of music to the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church.

Willie Kitchens was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 27, 2005.

See how Willie Kitchens is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie Kitchens' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about his maternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens talks about musicianship in his mother's family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens talks about his mother's upbringing in Sandersville, Georgia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens talks about his paternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens talks about his father's upbringing and migration to Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about musicianship within his father's family and the WLAC radio station in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes his parents' personalities and considers which parent he takes after
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens describes his earliest childhood memories and the sights, sounds, and smells of his neighborhood in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens describes the racial demographic in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1960s
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Willie Kitchens describes his experience at the Howard Elementary and High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens remembers his choir classes at Howard High School
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens remembers singing in the Rosebud choir at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about his sisters, and his parents' co-parenting
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens remembers learning to play guitar with his father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens describes the kinds of records he remembers hearing on the radio and at home
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens recalls civil rights activity in 1960s Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens remembers listening to the blues at home
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens talks about playing sports in high school and being invited to play with his father's gospel band, the Five Sons of Calvary
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about enrolling at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes transitioning from gospel music to secular music, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens comments on some musicians from Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens talks about working as a musician in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early 1970s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Willie Kitchens recalls playing and singing at First Baptist Church of Bozentown
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Willie Kitchens describes transitioning from gospel music to secular music, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Willie Kitchens describes playing on the Bobby Jones Gospel TV show and his affection for Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens talks about taping HistoryMaker Bobby Jones' gospel show, 'Bobby Jones Gospel'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens talks about becoming the minister of music at Church of the First Born and Friendship Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about the history of the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens talks about directing the Bethlehem Center Mass Youth Choir
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens describes recording the Bethlehem Center Mass Youth Choir
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens explains how he became a member of The Impressions in 1999
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens remembers his first performance with The Impressions in 1999
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens lists noteworthy past and present members of The Impressions, including HistoryMakers Jerry Butler, Samuel Gooden and Fred Cash
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about touring with The Impressions and finding his own sound
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens talks about The Impressions' performance schedule at the time of the interview
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens describes highlights of his experience as a member of The Impressions
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens talks about being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame with The Impressions
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens talks about his favorite Impressions song, 'People Get Ready' as well as Curtis Mayfield
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens talks about the original songs he has written for The Impressions
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens describes his musical philosophy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens shares his advice to young singers and musicians
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens expresses his hopes and concerns for the African-American demographic
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens considers what he would change about his past
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens talks briefly about the support of his family
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens expresses how much he appreciates having gotten the opportunity to work with The Impressions
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens narrates his photographs