With this week’s passing of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, much has been said of the show’s cultural impact. Specifically, the wide pool of American entertainers who, in one way or another, can trace their careers right back to ‘the hippest trip in America.’
Without Soul Train, Michael Jackson wouldn’t have spotted Jeffery Daniels do ‘the backslide,’ a dance move which MJ would later perfect and dub ‘the moonwalk.’ Actress Rosie Perez? Her first gig in entertainment was as a Soul Train dancer in the mid-80s. Same for Carmen Electra, Nick Cannon, MC Hammer, Fred “Rerun” Berry and Shemar Moore.
But what about the people and places that gave birth to Soul Train? Did you know that the the ‘Train’s’ tracks lead right back to Chicago?
1965. WCIU. Then, a brand new UHF station. They were showing two programs: Kiddie-a-Go-Go and Red Hot and Blues. Both featured in-studio dancers. Both caught the eye of Don Cornelius who, at the time, was a news anchor and weekend DJ at WVON. Cornelius sought counsel on his new idea from Carl Davis, the legendary Chicago record producer. In fact, Davis supplied the studio (630 N. McClurg Ct.) and the artists (Gene Chandler, Major Lance and The Chi-Lites) for the Soul Train pilot.
Davis tells some excellent SoulTrain stories in his autobiography, The Man Behind the Music: The Legendary Carl Davis. And incidentally, long before the news of Cornelius’ passing, CPL had been planning our panel discussion about Davis this Saturday, February 4 from 1-4 PM at the Woodson Regional branch (9525 S Halsted).
You’re invited to join us for this enlightening, free discussion about Davis’ book, his life, legacy and the African American music industry in Chicago. Clarence Waldron, former senior writer at Jet Magazine, will preside over the discussion with panelists Gene Chandler, Herb Kent, Marshall Thompson, Gregg Parker, Gus Redmond, Leonard Fourte and Maurice White.
The program will also include performances by Diane Caesar and the mime team from Unity Fellowship Church in Harvey. The opening program is co-sponsored by Life to Legacy Publishers.
And you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey!