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(C) 2018. All written material found on this website is the property of Blues Critic and may only be used with permission and full accreditation (either "Blues Critic" or "Dylann DeAnna of Blues Critic") and link to this website.


Interview with Bill Coday

Bill Coday Headshot

"People let me take you down to the Chitlin' Circuit. Pulling out of Jackson/Heading to Mobile/Gonna stop in Baton Rouge/Then it's on to Greenville/DJs playin' my music on the radio/And when I come to town everybody want to see the Bill Coday show/On the Chitlin' Circuit/Everybody's having a ball/Playing another hole in the wall."

Those lyrics are taken from Bill Coday's song "On The Chitlin' Circuit" that references that famed part of the Deep South where modern Southern Soul Blues still lives and Bill Coday is a legend.

Born May 10, 1942, in Coldwater, Mississippi, Coday, the second of twelve children, was brought up in rural Arkansas with a strong religious Baptist background. Like many other great R&B singers, Bill was brought up singing gospel in church choirs and local quartets. Soon he crossed over to the Blues and began performing in juke joints around Blytheville, AK, with a band that included blues guitarist Son Seals Jr. He moved to Chicago in 1961 was spotted by Denise LaSalle while he was performing at the Black Orchid club. "Denise and her former husband, Bill Jones, owned Crajon Records. They signed me to their label, changing my name from "Chicago Willie" to "Bill Coday."

Bill Coday CrajonLaSalle teamed Coday with Memphis soul icon Willie Mitchell (co-architect of the Al Green/Hi Records sound). Coday's first singles for Crajon Productions were "Sixty Minute Teaser" and "I Get High on Your Love". "They did fairly well, but it was the next record that would launch my career in the R&B field". That next singlewas "Get Your Lies Straight," that put Coday on the map when he charted at #14 on the R&B charts in 1971. The follow up single was leased to Galaxy Records and "When You Find a Fool, Bump His Head," (a LaSalle composition) reached #48 R&B in summer 1971.

Bill Coday Epic 45 In 1973 Coday was signed to Epic Records, resulting in the minor hit "I'm Back To Collect" and a couple other singles including "A Man Ain't A Man" & "I Don't Want To Play The Game". Following this brief alliance Bill's recording days pretty much dried up for the next two decades. He still made a living on the road and "may have recorded in Muscle Shoals" in the late 70s (Bill doesn't remember). He was also briefly affiliated with Phil Walden, founder of Capricorn Records but they didn't see eye to eye so Bill parted ways and went back on the road. In 1984 it was LaSalle again that jump started Bill's career, hiring him as an opening act which eventually led to a recording contact with Ecko Records. So finally in 1995 Coday's second full length recording (if you count a 1978 collection of Crajon singles) was released and quickly became a hit on the "Chitlin' Circuit" with such colorful songs like "Her Love Is Good Enough To Put In Collard Greens" & "Dr. Thrillgood". The set also included and update of is signature hit, "Get Your Lies Straight". Five more CDs followed for Ecko until he decided to start his own record label, B & J Records, with partner James Wolfe. His first release was "Jump Start".

The Interview

BC = Blues Critic

Bill Coday = Bill Coday

Bill Coday Denise LaSalle Photo courtesy of Chittlin' Circuit Magazine

BC = Recently you received an award at the Jus' Blues show called Denise LaSalle's Recording Award. What is that about?

Bill Coday = You know I was surprised when they did that for me in Atlanta. They called me to come perform couple songs from my new CD but when I got there when they started giving out awards they called my name and I was like, "No they didn't!". A lot of times people are given awards after they're dead and gone but now they trying to give them their props while they still alive.

BC = Yeah, that reminds of a song Billy "Soul" Bonds' new CD which has a song called "Give Them Their Flowers" that basically says to do so while they're still alive.

Bill Coday = Yeah. I saw Billy not too long ago at the Black Music Awards in Jackson, Mississippi. I know Billy from way back.

Bill Coday live in the 50s Bill in the 50s

BC = You started singing back in the 50s but your first single, "Sixty Minute Teaser", came out on a label called Crajon in the 60s, right?

BillCoday = I started singing as a teenager. When I was 16 or 17 years old I sang with Son Seals Jr. But yeah I recorded for Crajon Records out of Chicago. Willie Mitchell produced me and he did everything I did back in the early 60s. I left Chicago and went to his Memphis studio and he did a great job with us and that's where I got started at.

BC = "I Got High On Your Love" was your first regional hit. Of course "Get Your Lies Straight" was your signature...

Bill Coday = Yeah that was the signature- that got me out there. That song stayed in the Top 100 for six months and had me working like crazy man. I was so busy I had to fly everywhere I went. You know people see me: "Hey Bill Coday..Get Your Lies Straight" (laughs). That's what people remember me for.

(editor's note" "Get Your Lies Straight" reached #14 on Billboard's National Top 100 Black Singles Chart in 1971)

BC = Now soon there'll be a record coming out with all the Crajon material on Denise LaSalle's label?

Bill Coday Crajon CD

Bill Coday = Yeah Denise, she wrote "When You Find A Fool Bump His Head" for me yeah. She's planning on putting "The Best Of Bill Coday" out. She went back and got all these songs I had from back in the day: "Handy Man", "Sixty Minute Teaser", I wrote one of those songs, "You Gonna Want Me Back". Some of the stuff on there man I forgot I recorded. She's working on it now.

BC = Now there was a Crajon compilation out before but this new one has some tracks that's never been released?

Bill Coday = Yeah we got some stuff on there that's never been released. Just some stuff that was on the self. When I went to Holland with her I saw this album of mine that had all those Crajon tracks. It had a picture and everything. They really received me well out there. (Editor's note: "Bill Coday" was released in 1978 on Crajon was a collection of 10 tracks. It was briefly available on CD overseas in the 90s). As a matter of fact that's how I got with Ecko Records. There's a guy, David Porter, from England who saw me out there and he saw me do a show in Memphis at B.B. King's place. And he got in touch with Ecko Records and said "I heard you was looking for somebody. How about this guy who used to sing with Denise LaSalle. I don't think he's got a contact with anybody". And that's how I got with John Ward.

BC = That was in 1995. But there was a period from about to 1975 until then where you didn't do much recording.

Bill Coday = Yeah after Epic released a few singles on me like "I'm Back To Collect" I didn't do much in the studio but I was still working quite a bit on my name. I was living in Georgia at the time. I was with another company for awhile there but I found out what kind of people they was. It was Red Walden out of Macon, Georgia. Otis Redding and Phil Walden who had this label but when I found out what kind of person Phil was I got out of there and went back to Memphis to spend time with my folks. When Denise found out I moved back to Memphis she called 'cuz she needed somebody to open up some shows for her and we were together for about 11 years throughout the 80s.

BC = Yes Those Epic songs showed a funkier side of you. What artists influenced you growing up?

Bill Coday = Well , Johnnie (Taylor) used to be my idol. I was versatile- I could sing anybody's stuff but when Johnnie do I show I loved it. Then James Brown-I used to save every penny I could get to see his show. I used to wear my hair like him, wear my clothes like him and even dancin' like the guy. You know, doin' all those splits and stuff as part of my show. I'm still dancing but there's no more splits. I think if I did the splits someone be saying: "He's fallen down and can't get up!" (laughs)

BC = Speaking of Johnnie Taylor, you've actually done two tribute songs to him since his passing. "We're Gonna Miss You (Johnnie)"  from "Memories" and "If Johnnie We're Here Today" from "Take Me") Did you approach Ecko about doing those songs?

Bill Coday = No as a matter of fact when I did that "We're Gonna Miss You (Johnnie)". I was out of pocket and John Ward my producer was looking for me 'cuz I didn't know Johnnie had passed. I think I was fishing or something and he wanted to cut a song so we could be the first one to do a song as a tribute to Johnnie. I hadn't ever heard the song so I went to the studio and we cut that song the same day! And then Denise called and we went on to Dallas. The first day they had a viewing of the body and the next day was the funeral. And I went in the church to see the body again and somebody was calling me on my cell phone so I went back out the church and it was WDIA (radio station) calling me out of Memphis and asked me how the funeral was going. Then they told me: "we got this CD of "We're Gonna Miss You (Johnnie)" and we're gonna start playing it on the air", and I was like, "What?!". Now I cut that song on a Sunday and by Tuesday it was ready to go! Johnnie wasn't even in the ground and they were playing that song already.

Bill Coday Sneakin' Back

BC = Which of your five CDs for Ecko Records was the definitive Bill Coday?

Bill Coday = Well there's a lot of songs I like. I have to say the first one, "Sneakin' Back", 'cuz it has "Get Your Lies Straight", "Your Love is Good Enough To Put On Collard Greens". That was pretty much of my favorite songs when I was on Ecko.

Bill Coday Jump Start

BC = Your new CD "Jump Start" was released on your own label. Who are the "B & J" of B & J Records?

Bill Coday = Me and Joe Hudson my business partner. We've been at it for about a year now. We're still learning. Simeo (Overall) produced that record and radio's still playing the songs. I'm getting ready to back in the studio and work on my new album. I think I'm going with James Jackson. He's the one did Karen's (Wolfe) album. We got some really good writers like James Smith and I'm feeling really good about it. We're just getting our feet wet.

BC = I'm sure it's more difficult getting your music out there as an independent. You're very positive about the experience. What has kept you from getting bitter about the business through the years? What makes you a soul survivor?

Bill Coday = The motivation is I like what I do. I like entertaining people. If I could go and do a show and somebody comes in feeling bad and they go out feeling pretty good I feel I did some justice. I love to sing. I've had more downs and ups you know but I just keep going. I got some people who are pushing for me like Denise or Willie Clayton to get me back out there and do it again. I want to help other people now too like Karen Wolfe and maybe take some more people into the label.




(C) 2018. All written material found on this website is the property of Blues Critic and may only be used with permission and full accreditation (either "Blues Critic" or "Dylann DeAnna of Blues Critic") and link to this website.