The Religious Souls

In 1966, 10-year-old drummer Reggie Kingcannon joined his siblings David on guitar, Lavern on bass, Betty and Sarah on vocals, and mother and keyboardist Willa in a homespun R&B act. Billed indistinguishably as the Entertainers, they took their hometown of Wichita, Kansas, by storm, building a reputation by combining multi-generational novelty with genuine talents. Through the back half of the ’60s, the Entertainers gigged constantly, covering everything from retirement homes to concert halls. In the early 1970s, when Jackson-related receipts were keeping Berry Gordy’s mistresses in furs, the Kingcannon family was afforded a crack at joining the Motown ranks. But eldest brother David was repelled by the culture, having recently been saved. He was called to preach the gospel. David’s abrupt 1971 departure splintered the group for nearly a year.

Having relocated in 1970 to Denver, Colorado, the Entertainers brought a new moniker with them to the Mile-High City. Rechristened the Destinated Soul, Reggie and Lavern keep things rolling in the thin mountain air with unrelated players, but their time as a soul group was coming to an end. David’s interest in gospel seemed to light a way forward. “We didn’t want to play any dead, old gospel,” Reggie recalled. And matriarch Willa advised the familial ensemble that “you can do your own music and change the lyrics to be gospel lyrics.” David came back to the fold, and the group began billing themselves as the Religious Souls, landing dead-center in a new trend: spiritual songs fused with pop and soul.

They hit the road in 1973 with new songs in that vein, settling for a long engagement in Columbus, Ohio. They would stay almost half a decade, and fall in with Dayton gospel-jock Alvin “Brother Al” McCottry, self-proclaimed as “America’s #1 Gospel DJ,” with syndication on at least four stations: KBRN (Denver), WSUM (Cleveland), WHKK (Cincinnati), and WPFB (Middleton, Ohio). The Souls didn’t quite lose their soul roots entirely: their manager, Roy Hoover, came from a soul background, having managed Columbus showband mainstays the Suspicious Can Openers. In 1975, the group took one of its most stirring originals, “Sinner Man,” into Jack Casey’s Rome Studios. The result was a Denver-addressed 45 issued on their own H&M imprint. It wouldn’t be the last time that “Sinner Man” found its way to wax.

In 1978, the Religious Souls booked time at Denver’s Music Plant to cut Sinner Man, their first long-player. Bearing the Artist’s Recording logo and an Aurora, Colorado, address, the nine-song album included a fleshed-out version of the title cut, made under the watchful eye of McCottry. They took their family revue back on the road, and wound up cutting Change Me Lord for the JCL label in Henderson, Tennessee. The Religious Souls then went quiet for the first half of the ’80s and resurfaced as the Kingcannon Family for the Arroyo-released Unity in 1985.

The Religious Souls Appears on: