Song Story: Where Could I Go But To the Lord

Where Could I Go, But to the Lord was written in 1940 by James Buchanan {also known as J.B.} Coats.

James Buchanan Coats

Mr. Coats was born on April 6, 1901 in Summerland, Mississippi. By the time he was fourteen, he was teaching music classes and leading evangelistic singings.

The inspiration for the song came years earlier when Mr. Coats was sitting beside a dying neighbor, an old African-American man, Joe Keyes.

Mr. Coats asked Mr. Keyes if he knew where he would spend eternity.

The old gentleman said, “Where could I go but to the Lord?”

Fast forward to years later, and Mr. Coats, while teaching at a singing school, Mr. Coats wrote the song.

The question reminds us that whether we are riddled with problems, facing a beautiful day, or making our final journey home, there is no where else to turn except to the Lord.

J. B. Coats wrote numerous songs including A Wonderful Place, I’m Winging My Way Back Home, Where there is Love and Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye.

He died on December 15, 1961.


A question from a dying man inspired Where Could I Go but to the Lord #songstory Share on X



  • Alexis Coats

    J.B Coats was my Great Grandfather on my Dad’s side. If you have anymore information about him I’d love to hear. My father and his father are both deceased.

    • Wonderful to hear from you and hearing of the family connection. I don’t have any additional information on him. There is a very brief biography of him on hymnary dot org. When time allows you may want to consider tracing his family history for more information. I wish you the best in your pursuit.

  • Wayne Bush

    Ms. Alexis Coats,

    We have a record of him (Mr. J.B. Coats) being hired as the singing school director at Isabel Baptist Church Singing School, in Washington Parish, Louisiana. It was said he sat down under an oak tree by the artesian well here, and penned the words on his lunch bag to “WHERE COULD I GO BUT TO THE LORD .”
    Interestingly enough, on a recent mission trip to Romania, our team attended a service there and the congregation was singing that very song in their church in their native language.
    Annointed by the Holy Spirit it has traveled far and wide. Our God has no boundaries! We continue today to sing it in our nursing home Ministry. One of their favorite hymns they always request.

    We are celebrating our 130th anniversary tomorrow. The actual date is September 30th

    In His Service

    Wayne Bush. Deacon, and Music Director,
    Isabel Baptist Church
    53674 Parker Rd.
    Bogalusa, La. 70427

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