June 24, 2009

The History of SoulTrain

For those of you who didn’t know, you may find it interesting to learn the history of the TV show SOULTRAIN. (Portions copied from Wikipedia)

The origins of Soul Train can be traced to Chicago in 1965 when WCIU-TV began airing two youth-oriented dance programs: Kiddie-a-Go-Go and Red Hot and Blues. These two programs would set the stage for what was to come several years later.

Don Cornelius, a news reader and backup disc jockey at Chicago radio station WVON, was hired in 1967 as a news and sports reporter. Cornelius also was emceeing a touring series of concerts featuring local talent, calling his travelling caravan of shows "The Soul Train". WCIU-TV took notice of Cornelius's outside work, and in 1970 allowed him the opportunity to bring his road show to television.

After securing a sponsorship deal with the Chicago-based retailer Sears, Roebuck and Co., Soul Train premiered on WCIU-TV on August 17, 1970 as a live show airing weekday afternoons. The first episode of the program featured Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lites, and the Emotions as guests. Its immediate success attracted the attention of another locally-based firm—the Johnson Products Company (manufacturers of the Afro Sheen line of hair-care products) -- and they later agreed to co-sponsor the program's expansion into syndication. Soul Train began airing in selected cities across the United States, on a weekly basis, on October 2, 1971. When it moved into syndication, the program's home base was also shifted to Los Angeles, where it remained for the duration of its run.

Though Don Cornelius moved his operations west, Soul Train continued in Chicago. Cornelius hosted the local Chicago and Los Angeles-based national programs simultaneously, but soon focused his attention solely on the national edition. He continued to oversee production in Chicago, where WCIU-TV aired episodes until 1976, followed by three years of once-weekly reruns.

During the heyday of Soul Train in the 1970s and 1980s, the program was widely influential among younger African Americans, many of whom turned to it not only to hear the latest songs by well-known black artists but also for clues about the latest fashions and dance trends. These dancers were average young people between the ages of 16 and 20 who auditioned for a coveted spot on the show. The auditions were held at various park gymnasiums around the inner city. The early years were wholesome times. Dancing on the show afforded many of the dancers opportunities they would possibly not been afforded if not for Soul Train. Moreover, for many white Americans in that era who were not living in areas that were racially diverse, Soul Train provided a unique window into black culture.

1 comment:

BougieApplebum said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I have to admit, I've never been fully up to par on the history of the train. Great post!