Sunday, November 05, 2006


Cody Black: From Cincinnati to Detroit

Cody Black must have a very agreeable personality as many of his associations which started out being business related have blossomed into long lasting friendships, no mean feat in a recording industry where rip-offs were an everyday occurrence. He grew up in Cincinnati only a stones throw from the King Record’s headquarters / studio. As a result of this, he got to know King’s owner Sid Nathan at an early age and their friendship would prove to be useful many years later. He cut his first record, “Come To Me (Girl) / Stranger Than A Fairy Tale”, while still in Cincinnati and it was released there on the Pamela label around 1961. I believe he also had a 2nd 45 released whilst in Cincinnati but not too much later he took the decision to relocate to Detroit.
This almost instantly proved to be a good decision as he hooked up with Mike Hanks and recorded the Rudy Robinson / Mike Hanks written song “These Chains of Love”. This was released on D-Town Records in 1964 (the song would later be cut by J J Barnes). A year later Cody enjoyed his second release on the label when “Mr. Blue” was released. The 45 didn’t really sell that well at the time but subsequently it has become a much sought after single with soul collectors around the world. “Too Many Irons In the Fire” came next and once again Mike Hanks and Rudy Robinson were heavily involved with it’s recording. Whilst at the label, Cody also schooled some of the other acts, the Precisions being amongst these. Cody’s follow up was allocated a release under the Wheelsville logo, “”I Will Give You Love” being another Mike Hanks effort and by this time Cody and Mike had forged a strong friendship. Later that year (1966) Cody moved across to yet another new record label, having “It’s Our Time To Fall In Love” released on G.I.G. Once again this 45 has become a highly prized collectors item and changes hands for up to £1500 a copy.
Another label change came in 1967 when in conjunction with his friends Rudy Robinson and Grant Burton, Cody wrote and produced both sides of a single released on Groove City, “Because You First Loved Me / The Night A Star Was Born”. The established pattern wasn’t broken by his next release, “Going, Going, Gone” escaping on Ram Brock in late 67 / early 1968. 1968 was to prove to be a busy year for Cody, a song called “I’m Slowly Moulding” had already been cut on another artist but its producers weren’t happy with the vocalist’s efforts. They asked Cody to give the song a run through and he quickly nailed it. A label had to be found who would issue the track and so Cody made use of his old friendship with King’s Sid Nathan and an approach was made to that organisation. King took up the offer and the track was soon made available to the record buying public. The Ram Brock label decided to try again, as it reissued Cody’s old cut “The Nite A Star Was Born”, this time coupling it with “Life Goes On”. A 3rd Ram Brock 45 made it into the shops in August 1968, with the release of “Love Like I Never Had”, again written and produced by the Black / Robinson / Burton (BRB) team.
By the late 60’s Cody’s writing had become accomplished enough for Mike Hank’s to use a couple of their joint compositions on other artists. The Magictones recorded “Together We Shall Overcome” for Mahs and Toby Lark cut “Lots of Hearts” for USD. Cody was by now quite an established figure on the Detroit recording scene and his status helped him gain many bookings as the opening act on live shows by big stars (Gladys Knight & the Pips, etc.). This action must have raised his profile sufficiently to interest Ted White (Aretha Franklin’s husband). He had just started his own label, Ston-roc and Cody was signed to it. A single was released in 1969, “I Still Love You / Ice Cream Song”. Unfortunately it again failed to chart although “Ice Cream Song” would become a hit in March 69 for another Detroit recording outfit, the Dynamics. Releases on Ston-roc must have created some sort of attention though as Capitol Records signed the company to a national distribution deal. Two 45’s by Cody were issued on Capitol under the deal, “I’m Sorry” (written by Tony Johnson of the duo, Tony & Tyrone) in mid 1970 and “Ain’t No Love Like Your Love”.
Cody then took a short break from the recording scene but bounced back by starting his own label in 1977. He formed Renissance Records and put out “Keep On Trying / Steppin On Toes” that year. By now, Cody was so steeped in and accomplished at the tasks associated with song writing, producing and singing that he handled all these duties himself. The following year the label issued a 2nd single, “What Goes Around”. This was to prove to be Cody’s last release as although he continued to record right through to the mid 80’s, none of his later efforts were to escape from the tape vaults. Today, over 40 years after he first started recording, Cody still has a very good reputation as a live performer and his old recordings are regularly included on compilation CD’s of in-demand old soul classics.
JOHN SMITH; Feb 2004

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