Well, the short answer to that is, it’s a term used to describe a loose network of clubs and other venues in the United States that were hospitable to African American musicians and patrons. The Circuit, although there were plenty of business associations among venue owners, promoters, managers, etc., was not a formal route or even a fixed set of venues. The term, in fact, didn’t come into play until much later. In a search of nationwide newspapers (newspapers.com) the first time the term is found is in a syndicated article about Low Rawls.
Venues from Michigan, Indiana and the Midwest, to Florida to Texas and all up and down the east cost are all considered to be part of the Chitlin’ Circuit.
North Carolina had no shortage of venues:
- Greensboro: The El Rocco, The Carlotta, Forest Lake, The Desert Inn, The Americana, The Artist Guild, The Ponderosa
- Durham: The Stallion Club, Your Own Thing Theater, Baby Grand Club
- Raleigh: The Cave
- Charlotte: The Hi-Fi, The Excelsior
- Asheville: The Orange Peel, The Kitty Cat Club, The Wagon Wheel, Peacock Club, James-Keys Hotel (Booker T Washington Hotel), Skyland Club
- High Point : The Arcade
- Mebane: The Orange Bowl
- Burlington: The Club 400, The Candlelight
- Winston Salem: Gore’s, The Zodiac, The Big D Lounge, The Dungeon
- Asheboro: The Brown Derby
- Salisbury: The Hut
The list is only some of the clubs, but the Circuit consisted of more than just clubs. As Pappy Morgan, the drummer for The Electric Express, says, ” Backwood clubs; out in parking lots; (back of farms), back of houses… that’s what you call the Chitlin Circuit.”