"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."
LaSalle 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.
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". Coday died in 2008 and his widow, Anna, renamed the label Coday Records.
"Bill Coday" (Crajon 1978)
1. Get Your Lie
**** Very rare LP features the best of his early funky soul material including "Get Your Lies Straight", "I'm Back To Collect", "Sixty Minute Teaser", "When You Find A Fool Bump His Head", "Woman Rules The World" & other obscure sides like "Jury Of Love (8 Men 4 Women)", "What Cha Lay On Me" & "Let Me Be Your Handy Man".
"Sneakin' Back" (Ecko 1995)
1. Get Your Lies Straight
**** Debut CD for Ecko contains a smokin' update of his signature hit "Get Your Lies Straight" and contains equally good blues & southern soul cuts like "Doctor Thrill Good", "Maybe I'm In Love With You", "Young, Fine, Sweet And Tender" & funny "Her Love Is Good Enough To Put In Collard Greens". A stunning comeback for Coday. Incredibly this was his first full length of all new material despite 40 years of performing and recording.
"Can't Get Enough" (Ecko 1997)
1. In the Room Next to the Room
**** Another disc packed with Grade A material like the John Ward originals "That's When The Blues Began" (previously recorded by James Carr), "It's A Blues Thang" & "In The Room Next To The Room" (also recorded by Charles Wilson). On "That's When The Blues Began" we are taken back to the Garden of Eden when the first couple snatched the forbidden fruit. Logically, this is when the blues started. Other highpoints include the duet with label mate Barbara Carr ("Not A Word"), the classic southern soul "That's How Strong My Love Is" and the frantic closer "Bring Your Lunch".
"Put Me In The Mood" (Ecko 1999)
1. I'm a Honey Do
*** Ecko album number 3 on Coday contains a similar formula as the last two (just not as good). Stomping blues shuffles ("Country Back Hills Juke Joint", "I'm Ready To Ball"), funky dancers ("Sexaholic", "I'm A Honey Do", "I'm Gonna Stand Up For Myself") and a couple slower soul cuts ("You Put Me In The Mood" and "She's In A Midnight Mood In The Middle Of The Day"- also recorded by Denise LaSalle).
"Memories" (Ecko 2000)
1. We're Gonna Miss You Johnnie
**1/2 Basically a sampler of past Coday tracks ("Moans, Grunts & Groans", "It's A Blues Thang"), a couple Coday tracks that appeared on Ecko Records compilations (The nasty "Bo Hawk Grind" and "My Outside Woman") and two new tracks ("When This Dance Is Over" and the lovely tribute to Johnnie Taylor called "We're Gonna Miss You, Johnnie", which also appears as an extended remix.). A proper "best of" plus the new tracks would have been more worth the price.
"Love Gangsta" (Ecko 2002)
1. Love Gangsta
*** In the title cut Coday says he'll steal "Jody's woman right from under his nose". This track also nicks a portion of the theme from "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly"; using it as a insinuating keyboard hook. Very nice! "On The Chitlin' Circuit" describes that famed part of the south where southern soul and soul blues reigns..as does barbecued chitlins' and "cold, cold wine". Coday also scores big with the straight dance track "Hoochie Dance", also done by Barbara Carr.
"Take Me" (Ecko 2003)
1. If Johnnie Were Here Today
** It would appear Coday is not high on Ecko's priority list as he gets only 8 new cuts from the Ecko Records writing stable and most of them are B-quality. "If Johnnie Were Here Today", has a great bridge sandwiched between a verse/chorus with an anemic melody. What's worse is that there's a pointless "extended version" that is more of the same. "Back It Up And Put It There" is a pedestrian dancer, as is "Work That Thang". The only great cut is "It Was A House Until You Made It A Home", which also appeared on Denise LaSalle's "Wanted" CD. One glaring omission from the last two Coday discs is B-L-U-E-S, which his voice is most suited for.
"Jump Start" (B & J Records 2005)
1. Jump Start
"I Got A Thing: The Crajon Recordings" (P-Vine 2007)
1. Get Your Lie
"The Best Years" (Ordena 2008)
1. Get Your Lie Straight