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Willie Kitchens

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.

Accession Number

A2005.171

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/27/2005

Last Name

Kitchens

Maker Category
Organizations
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days

First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Chattanooga

HM ID

KIT01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth Teens

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Christmas

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $500
Preferred Audience: Youth Teens

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Favorite Quote

If He Hung Out There, We Ought To Be Able To At Least Hang In There.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

1/6/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chattanooga

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Gospel musician, music director, and singer Willie Kitchens (1956 - ) sang with the musical group, The Impressions, and served as executive director of the Bethlehem Center Mass Choir and minister of music to the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church.

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Willie Kitchens remembers learning to play guitar with his father
Willie Kitchens explains how he became a member of The Impressions in 1999
Transcript
Okay, now how old were you when your father [Willie Kitchens, Sr.] started showing you how to play the guitar?$$I was about seven years old, seven or eight when I could remember him putting that guitar in my lap. In fact, I used to sneak and, and play it when he was not at home. I'd go in and open up the case and grab it and try to play a little bit of it.$$Okay, could you play a little bit?$$No considering I would just be strumming and getting blisters on my finger. And couldn't do anything with it but just to know that I could go to it and get it, it was, you know, that was enough for me.$$Okay, do, do you remember the first thing you learn how to play?$$I believe what he taught me was--it was just a chord I think it was just a chord. It wasn't a song it was like a chord here, and then he would tell me this is the first and this is the second and this is the fourth. And I would learn things like that, so it wasn't actually a song. But actually when I heard a sound that sound like a chord I went, man, I knew it was getting there it was getting there, so that was about it.$$Okay, so how long was it before you started actually playing the guitar, you know, in public?$$Well after my dad left I think I got a little bit more intense with it. My mom [Lena Pearl Wise] bought me a guitar and then I got together with my sisters, and we formed a group and we started singing. And I start playing guitar, I kind of surprised my dad. We had a gentleman, a older gentleman lived across the street from us named Mr. Curtis [ph.]. And I would always go over when my dad wasn't around. Of course, I went over to watch him play, and he would sit me down sometimes and, and show me a few things. And I took off from there and formed my own little family group. And so my dad would then sometimes have us to sing on the programs with them, so that's where I start playing actually myself. Start playing guitar.$Alright, now. Well, once again now, should we talk about The Impressions now?$$Yeah, let's go to The Impressions.$$Okay, so as stated earlier you were--your name was referred to Sam [HM Samuel] Gooden by his sister--$$Right.$$--that attended a neighboring church--$$Right.$$--and knew about you.$$Right, right.$$So what happened did--can you remember how you felt when you first heard from them?$$Yes I can very much so I said I said to my wife I say I wonder why they calling me I'm not interested in that (laughter). I really did I mean, I was doing very well in the gospel, and I'd just released a new project of my own. And, and that's all I was concentrating on when I get a call from Sam and said that they'd like to talk to me about, you know, getting with them. And I told my wife I'm like I'm not interested in that. Because growing up, I was so involved in the church I guess, and I'd made up in my mind that that's all I was gonna do. I wasn't gonna do anything else. So at that time I just wasn't interested in anything else.$$Okay now were you an [The] Impressions fan when you were growing up or, or was it a generation ahead of you sort of?$$No I, I listen to The Impressions music, in fact, I told Sam and [HM] Fred [Cash] that same story. I could remember coming home from--I was in middle school walking home I came by my house aunt's house, and my cousin was playing some of The Impressions music. And he knew how much I loved to sing and I would go to the door and listen. And he said to me he said if you keep up the work you're doing and with your singing one day you might become one of these Impressions. I never in one million years dreamed that this would happen he's dead and gone now. But he must have been a prophet 'cause he prophesized that.$$Okay, all right so they called you up, and you weren't interested right? (simultaneous).$$No I really wasn't interested.$$Not cause you don't like them (simultaneous).$$No.$$But because you, you were already busy?$$That's right, that's right. And he called and said they were going to London [England] to tour with Eric Clapton. And they needed a lead vocalist they need somebody. And, and I really still wasn't enthused, you know, it was like, you know, most people I know would. You know, and, and that's not to say that, you know, I didn't care. But I just wasn't--but and I asked, and I told him I said let me get back with you 'cause they want to come over and meet with me. And I wanted to talk to my pastor, talk to my dad [Willie Kitchens, Sr.]. To you know, to get some kind of opinion or get some kind of wisdom from them of what they thought and that's what led to where I am today.

Helen Turner-Thompson

Minister of music, pianist and educator, Helen Turner-Thompson was born on January 7, 1931. Turner-Thompson has lived most of her life in Cleveland, Ohio. A product of the Cleveland Public Schools, she studied piano privately beginning in elementary school and held a number of professional jobs before graduating from Cleveland's Central High School. She also completed additional studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Turner-Thompson has worked with the choirs of numerous local churches, including Antioch Baptist Church, Mount Zion Congregational Church, Euclid Avenue Congregational Church and Shiloh Baptist Church. Nationally, she has worked with other professional musicians in the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Center for Black Music Research. Turner-Thompson, who currently resides in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, also teaches classical piano to area children and is a much sought-after clinician and workshop leader.

Turner-Thompson is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Gospel Pioneer Award, December 2006; the Inspirational Voices of Peace Founders Harp Award, September 2007; was honored by the Gospel Music Historical Society; the TallerWorks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; the Women’s Clergy of Greater Cleveland; the Karamu Theatre and was named a Master Artist for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program of the Ohio Arts Council, working with individuals interested in studying the history and performance practices of the gospel music that developed during the first half of the twentieth century.

Accession Number

A2004.029

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/19/2004

Last Name

Turner-Thompson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Rawlings Junior High School

Central High School

Cleveland Institute of Music

Cleveland Central High School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Helen

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

THO05

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Fall, Winter

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

If it's the Lord's will.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

1/7/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens, Yams (Candied), Fruit, Meat

Short Description

Gospel musician and piano instructor Helen Turner-Thompson (1931 - ) worked with the choirs of numerous churches in the Cleveland, Ohio area, including Antioch Baptist Church, Mount Zion Congregational Church, Euclid Avenue Congregational Church and Shiloh Baptist Church. Nationally, she worked with other professional musicians in the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, the Gospel Music Workshop of America and the Center for Black Music Research.

Employment

Cleveland Job Corps

Shiloh Baptist Church

Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:5272,81:6416,93:7040,100:9120,134:9536,139:11304,184:12760,205:17856,273:19208,318:19832,325:34704,540:78710,794:80555,806:179108,1281:204812,1476:223930,1586:324049,2359$0,0:1675,43:2211,53:2814,64:3216,71:4422,96:4690,101:4958,106:5226,111:6566,134:7236,146:7571,152:8174,162:8576,169:9313,190:9581,195:9849,200:10385,212:10988,223:11725,244:12127,251:12395,256:12998,267:13869,294:14204,300:16415,343:17889,371:18291,378:24030,423:24750,436:25150,442:25470,447:30917,512:31549,522:32023,531:40505,661:42071,684:45464,735:50088,750:50493,756:50817,764:51546,774:52032,781:53409,841:55272,881:55920,890:56325,897:57135,908:61509,1007:64830,1067:70316,1084:70974,1092:73982,1131:75674,1157:76426,1166:77836,1185:80562,1223:86210,1262:88366,1289:91765,1327:92515,1340:96520,1369:98840,1444:101400,1464:107000,1561:115642,1645:116230,1654:120682,1756:121186,1764:121522,1769:123202,1788:133294,1876:133518,1881:133742,1886:133966,1891:134750,1910:135198,1920:140185,2014:143890,2066:148070,2152:148640,2160:153290,2168:153620,2174:155006,2205:155270,2210:156590,2238:156986,2246:157976,2266:159560,2304:159824,2309:160682,2326:160946,2331:161342,2339:162728,2382:163388,2395:163850,2403:164180,2409:172246,2507:173902,2545:174766,2560:175558,2569:175990,2578:176638,2595:177286,2605:181235,2635:181673,2643:183133,2685:183425,2690:188925,2767:192900,2841:194025,2870:195750,2912:196875,2932:200475,3002:207825,3054:208125,3059:208650,3066:209925,3087:210825,3102:215250,3217:215700,3224:216300,3233:219450,3294:219750,3299:228182,3420:228998,3436:235050,3595:238087,3607
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Helen Turner-Thompson interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains her nickname 'Mother'

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Helen Turner-Thompson's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses her adoption

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Helen Turner-Thompson remembers her adopted mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about her adopted mother's music shop

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Helen Turner-Thompson recalls her childhood neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Helen Turner-Thompson speaks about her sister

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains African American entrepreneurship in Cleveland

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses her early musical career

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Helen Turner-Thompson remembers influential music teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses Thomas Dorsey and the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains the goal of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Helen Turner-Thompson remembers major players of the Chicago and Cleveland gospel music communities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Helen Turner-Thompson details her musical education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about her early experiences as a gospel musician

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Helen Turner-Thompson recalls gospel radio broadcasts by Wings Over Jordan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about the importance of improvisation in gospel music

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains how 'Amazing Grace' was accepted as a gospel song

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains the adaptability of 'Amazing Grace'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about changes in gospel music that start in the 1930s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses how gospel music evolved in the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Helen Turner-Thompson recalls James Cleveland's career and influence

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Helen Turner-Thompson compares the Thomas Dorsey and James Cleveland workshops

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about changes in gospel music's insturmentation

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Helen Turner-Thompson's contrasts tradititional and contemporary styles of gospel music

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Helen Turner-Thompson details her various duties in the community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about the the role of women in church hierarchy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses her courtship and marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Helen Turner-Thompson remembers continuing her music as a military wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Helen Turner-Thompson lists her children and grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about being a military wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about various jobs she held

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Helen Turner-Thompson recalls being a single parent during the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses the church's opinions of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains living in a "school of learning"

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Helen Turner-Thompson remembers Cleveland's participation in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses the underground economy in Cleveland

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Helen Turner-Thompson explains ways arts attracted youth to the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Helen Turner-Thompson talks about African American women writers' successes

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Helen Turner-Thompson discusses current female gospel musicians

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Helen Turner-Thompson shares her concerns about the future of gospel music

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Helen Turner-Thompson plays piano and sings a short medley of gospel tunes

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson and her aunt, Viola Tate, Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson's late husband, Donald Thompson, Sr.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson's late husband, Donald Thompson, Sr., receiving a military certificate

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson's sister, Frances Crawford's graduation photo from Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Baby photo of Helen Turner-Thompson's daughter, Yvonne Thompson-Moore

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Baby photo of Helen Turner-Thompson's son, Donald Thompson, Jr., 1953

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson pictured on the sheet music of, 'There Is A Place On The Battlefield For Me', Cleveland, Ohio, ca. 1947

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson with her children

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson with her family

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson with gospel choir members, Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson leading a gospel music workshop at Fairmount Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson receiving an award at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, January, 2002

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson after receiving an award at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, January, 2002

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson on a visit to Jerusalem, Israel

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson with Tony Menard and the music conductor at Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio, 1993

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - Helen Turner-Thompson in the Antioch Chorus at Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$1

DAStory

4$11

DATitle
Helen Turner-Thompson plays piano and sings a short medley of gospel tunes
Helen Turner-Thompson discusses her early musical career
Transcript
Okay, on that note, I'm gonna ask if you could play and sing for us some of that traditional gospel music that's made you a legend in this city [Cleveland, Ohio]. Would you do that?$$Well, let me see, is this cord long enough?$$Oh, no, we'll pause and maybe switch things around a little.$$(Tape interrruption).$$One number that really speaks to Kenneth Morris, a verse and a chorus, ' [My God is Real] Yes, God is Real'. I'm not gonna sing it though. You asked me to sing it. Then I have to change the key if I'm gonna sing it. That's another thing that put gospel musicians over. If you can transpose and play in any key, you can make it. (Singing) "There are some things"--anybody sing it with me?--"I may not know, There are some places, I can't go; But I am sure, Of this one thing; That God is real, for I can feel Him deep within. Oh, yes, God is real, He's real in my soul; Yes, God is real, For He has watched and made me whole. His love for me, Is like pure gold; Yes, God is real, for I can feel Him in my soul." And then the one that [Dr. Thomas A.] Dorsey wrote on ['The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow']--(Singing) "The Lord will make a way somehow, when beneath the cross I bow, He will take away the sorrow, let Him have your burdens now; When your load gets down so heavy the weight is sure to short upon my brow, There's a sweet relief, There's a sweet relief, There's a sweet relief in knowing the Lord will make a way somehow." Now, I'm gonna do my mother's song. She wrote this song, when she started walking again. Mother [Henrietta Coleman] did not walk from 1940, no, '43 [1943] to '47 [1947]. She had a nervous breakdown 'cause she worked too hard. So when she started working again, she wrote this song ['There Is A Place On The Battlefield For Me']. (Singing) "There is a place on the battlefield for me; There's a place on the battlefield for me; I can hear Jesus' voice sweetly saying, Stand up for right and behold the victory. On the battlefield Lord Jesus Christ was wounded; There He shed blood and died in agony; Now with joy, I'm fighting sin for my salvation, For His life means eternal life for me. I love to fight for my Christ, I want to die fully right, Then I'll see my savior's face in peace; So I'll keep marching along, Joyfully singing my song; There's a place on the battlefield for me."$$(Applause)$I'm wondering since you're now a full-time musician, clinician, sacred music--,$$Yes.$$--is all that I've ever heard you perform, but hearing all those different sounds growing up, were you ever torn between the sacred and secular, or were you pretty much focused on what you wanted to do as a young person?$$When I was in my teens, and I was attending, I think Rawlings Junior High [Cleveland, Ohio], we had a band in the school. And there were about six of us--little jazz band. And the teacher liked us. I think his name was Carter, yes. And he would take us out to do little gigs. We didn't call them gigs then, but that's what they say now. We had a saxophonist, trombone, baritone sax, bass violin, drums, and I was on the piano. And we would play at different places like Crile [General] Hospital [Cleveland, Ohio] and we'd go downtown, and I was rather enjoying it, thinking that I might be a second Hazel Scott. But my mother [Henrietta Coleman] put an end to that 'cause she (laughs), she said, there will be no jazz growing up in (laughs), in that house. But I, I enjoyed playing. I could play the jazz as the person did it. Two of my favorite numbers was 'After Hours' by Erskine Hawkins and 'Flying Home' by Lionel Hampton. Now, I could play those two. And I did like 'Begin the Beguine', and I can't think of the fellow who--oh, yes, I had a little repertoire of (laughs) of jazz.$$Okay, okay, now, when is this then that your mother is helping you decide that you're only gonna be a gospel musician? About how old were you then?$$I think I was, I was around, I was still in my teens.$$Oh, okay.$$And it happened one night we went to Crile Hospital on the West Side, you know, to entertain the fellows [World War II veterans]. Some of them were bedridden and they had their legs, you know, you know, amputated or all of this. And we thought we'd make them feel good, you know, by going out there. So I told mother [Henrietta Coleman] the [Rawlings Junior High] Glee Club had to sing somewhere, and, and she said, "Okay." This was not true. But I had to use that to get out of the house (laughs). And little did I know that my mother, being confined to the bed, she had a keen sense of discernment of the spirit, which is one of the fruits of the spirit. Now, she could tell what I was up to even just by sitting on that bed. And whether I was at home or not, someone would bring her the--"I saw Helen so and so." "Did you know Helen was so and so?" And, you know, so I really had to, to--you know, I had to come up in the straight narrow. Well, mother was concerned about this Glee Club. So she sent my grandmother [Martha Coleman] out in a car with someone and drove all the way out to York Road [Cleveland, Ohio]. And I was just whipping it on down on the piano. I was getting down, or at least I thought was (laughs). And I looked up in the door, and there stood my grandmother. And I think I could have been bought for a dime (laughs). I couldn't play, everything went out of me. I had no more--I, I was just like a person was, they saw something, and they had come to a stop, and, you know, it startled them. And then here I was. I can't believe this. This is my mother standing here, and all the fellows in casts, you know, and their toes just going, you know. And mother said, "Aren't you shamed, playing that jazz, and those men are laying up there with half of their torso and everything off." And I said, "But Mother, they want to be entertained." "Well, you're not gonna entertain them anymore like that." So that put an end to my jazz career.

Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble

Lifelong lover of gospel music Reverend Stanley Keeble was born March 8, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Josephus, was a native of Arkansas and his mother, Idola, was from Mississippi. They moved to Chicago in 1936 in hopes of finding work. Keeble graduated from high school in 1955, and would later return to school, graduating from Daniel Hale Williams University in 1978.

At the age of nine, Keeble took piano lessons, and attended services at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, where he came under the tutelage of Willie Webb. By 1952, Keeble had begun his musical career. He started out playing the piano, organ and singing, and later directing the choir of Fellowship Baptist Church, under the leadership of Reverend Clay Evans. Keeble continued to perform gospel music, playing with Inez Andrews of the Caravans and serving as the first musician for Jessie Dixon. By 1968, he had formed his own gospel choir, The Voices of Triumph. While continuing to perform, Keeble focused his energies on becoming a minister. He was ordained in 1973. Following graduation from Daniel Hale Williams University, Keeble began teaching English in the Chicago Public Schools in 1980, where he also created an accredited program on gospel music. In 1986, Keeble left teaching to serve as the chaplain at Presbyterian St. Luke Hospital, where he remained for the next thirteen years. In April 2002, Keeble established the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum. He also hosts a weekly radio program entitled The Joy Hour, on WKKC.

For thirty-five years, Keeble has been a member of the Gospel Music Workshop of America. He is also an officer of the Chicago Gospel Announcers Guild. As a gospel pioneer, Keeble is noted for his knowledge of gospel history. He has performed across the United States and in Europe, appeared on radio programs and was a frequent performer on Chicago’s Jubilee Showcase, a weekly program that aired for twenty-one years and celebrated many of gospel’s greats.

Accession Number

A2003.284

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/2/2003

Last Name

Keeble

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Stanley

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

KEE01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

3/8/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Gospel musician Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble (1937 - ) has performed around the world and on television for many years.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Presbyterian St. Luke Hospital

Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum

WKKC Radio

Favorite Color

Blue, Gray

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his maternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his parents and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble recalls his early interest in music

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes meeting gospel artists like Roberta and Sally Martin as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble contrasts gospel music to other religious musical styles

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes Thomas Dorsey's influence on gospel music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes the decline of Negro Spirituals

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his childhood personality and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble shares his memories of elementary school in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes attending Chicago Vocational School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his involvement with church and gospel music as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes participating in the Jubilee Showcase

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about graduating from Chicago Vocational School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about Sam Cooke

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes performing on television

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about his gospel and secular music work

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble recalls handling a difficult situation with a fellow performer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about attending Daniel Hale Williams College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about becoming a recognized gospel artist in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble shares memories of appearing on the TV show Jubilee Showcase

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes becoming an ordained minister

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble remembers when Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes the relationship between Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about his early ministry

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about forming his own musical group, Voices of Triumph

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his radio show

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes attending Gospel Outreach Seminary

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble shares his views on female ministers

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble shares his views on the changes in religious music

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about his favorite gospel musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble shares his concerns about gospel music

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes preserving the legacy of gospel musicians

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes his mission to inspire innovation among young people in gospel music

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes the Gospel Fest in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about his parent's pride in his success

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble recalls handling a difficult situation with a fellow performer
Reverend Dr. Stanley Keeble talks about the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum
Transcript
Were you ever in a situation where you had to, I guess, for one of a better term, fire somebody from a choir or a--I mean because they just weren't good?$$Well, I didn't have to actually fire, but I decided I could no longer use--I organized a community choir in '68 [1968] called the Voices of Triumph and from my inception, Marvin Yancy was my musician. Marvin who was like the top musician, as you probably know, later on in life he met and married Natalie Cole. And so when I lost him, you know, I still had some concerts to do and I invited a guy over to my house one day, 'cause I had to sing that night, and I spent the day teaching him everything I needed him to do. And at the concert that night, he did nothing (chuckling) that I had taught him. Had to literally get him off the organ, and when it came time to pay, I paid the fella and one of my choir members that was acting as the manager for the choir say, Reverend why are you paying him, he didn't (laughing) at least I took up the man's time, so I'm gone pay him. It was a learning experience for me.$$Okay.$$And sometimes, we put people in the awkward positions when we feel like that they can do certain things and when it comes time to perform, they really can't do it. I remember a gamble on another occasion, we--my choir had to go somewhere and sing, and Marvin of course was not there. And so I was asking couple other musicians about playing for me and they just told me no. So I was discussing it with the fella that was the president of the choir, he say, Reverend, I don't blame those musicians, I wouldn't sit down and play behind you or Marvin either. So, you know, sometime people are intimidated by certain personalities, but I feel, you know, that if what you going to do you need to perfect it, so you can do it and do it well.$Yes, sir let me ask you about the Gospel Music Museum.$$I am the founder and director of the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum. We were formed last year and originally we were in the Rothschild Building down on Michael Reese Campus. They closed that building and so at this point, we are looking for some place to house the museum. And we got quite a bit of artifacts and so forth and photos and so forth that we need to get up and display so people can see what we're doing. We had planned our Grand Opening and our Grand Opening was going to be centered around seven of the people that we considered Pioneers in Gospel. And they were Thomas Dorsey, Sally Martin, Professor Theodore R. Frye, Roberta Martin, James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson and the Late Reverend Milton Brunson. All of these have made such contributions to this Gospel Music; we are of the opinion that generations that are coming need to know about these great people and the greatness that they have made possible for this world. In school and learning music, I had to learn about the great masters had to learn about Beethoven, Chopin, Bach and so forth and I think it's important that our children learn about these great people. And it might inspire them to have a different kind of life that they might would have had otherwise. I'm sure that gospel music is one of the things that helped keep me out of trouble and keep me from going astray. And you mentioned earlier about my being busy, and I did stay busy. And I think I needed to be busy, because I had folk that I know that were close to me, even family members that went a different direction. So I said if we can have people like Thomas Dorsey who wrote Precious Lord a Gospel Song that is printed in 30 different languages, then we need to say to our children, here's a man that has written a song that is so popular and he wrote it back in the '30s [1930's]. And it's still popular. And it's written in 30 different languages maybe that ought to say to you, I can do something that will last for years and years to come. I want, even at my age, to leave some other legacy here in this music.