Soul Train has been
on the air for 33 years. The program originated in Chicago and was first
financed by Sears & Roebuck and Johnson Products. In Chicago, dancers
Jermaine Stewart (deceased singer) and Cookie were so popular; they
relocated with the show to Hollywood. Over the years, some of the dancers
would become popular like the celebrities who performed (lip-synched) on the
show. Damita Jo Freeman was the first dancer to gain notice when she
performed with Joe Tex each time he appeared on the show, she would
go on to appear in the TV series "Private Benjamin."
From there, Patricia Davis,
Shabba-Doo (once married to actress Lela Rochan) and his sister Fawn became
famous and forged out careers as backup dancers and choreographers. Other dancers
who became famous include: William "Tyrone" Swann, Vickie Ambercombie,
Tyrone Procter, Sharon Hill, Fred ‘Rerun’ Berry (deceased)
Lil Joe (deceased), Glen Sanford (deceased) Myron Montgomery, Cheryl Sung, James
Phillips, Jody Watley (successful singer) Rosie Perez (actress) Big Louie, Jeffrey
Daniel (choreographer, singer) Walter Payton (deceased NFL player) Toni Basil
(singer ) and Denise “Niecey” Payne.
Soul Train is an institution
and every dance craze of the 1970’s and 1980's originated from Soul Train.
I went down to L.A. with a group of friends, years ago, we arrived at the Soul
Train studios, if your name wasn’t on the list; you did not get in. Thankfully,
I was able to get our names on the list prior to our trip. The dance floor
was much smaller in person than on TV, during lunch, everyone was served free
Kentucky Fried Chicken and the dancers on the risers had
an attitude towards the dancers on the floor. They taped two shows on
Saturday and two shows on Sunday. The dancers often brought a change of
clothes for 4 shows.
You could leave, go shopping
and to the beach and return, they would still be taping, past midnight.
All of the artists had instruments to choose from stored in the back of the
studio, the instruments didn’t work because most of the artists lip-synched
their way through performances. Even more surprising, most of the dancers
were in their mid twenties or early thirties.
Don Cornelius would
venture out and own a record company with Dick Griffey called ‘Solar Records,'
(Sound Of Los Angeles Records).
Eventually, Griffey gained
complete ownership of the label. Cornelius was able to get two of his discoveries
signed to the label, O’Bryan and Rosie Gaines. Solar would have
tremendous success in the 1970’s with Shalamar, The Whispers and Lakeside.
Leon Sylvers (of the Sylvers) would write and produce the majority of the hits.
Dick Griffey would marry Carrie Lucas (a singer) and his daughter would marry
Soul Train dancer William Tyrone Swann.
The dancers had become so
famous that Jeffrey Daniel was hired to teach Michael Jackson
how to moonwalk and Bobcat was hired as a background dancer for superstar
acts. Daniel and Bobcat were the best two male dancers to ever come through
In the 1980’s, the union tried
to get ‘extra’ pay for the dancers but their efforts failed.
Numerous people have been trying
to get Don Cornelius to release the old classic episodes on DVD but he refuses
because he doesn’t think there would be an audience, he doesn’t realize he’s
sitting on a gold mine.
Two shows have spun off from
Soul Train, the wildly successful ‘Soul Train,’ awards and the ‘Lady Of
Soul Awards.’ Although, Soul Train is not as popular as it once was,
the memories are still in tact.
Recently, there was a ‘Soul
Train,’ reunion, a lot of the dancers from the 1980’s and 1990’s showed up.
Everybody hugged, reminisced and cried. It was a beautiful event as they
talked, laughed and re-enacted the Soul Train line.
Don Cornelius became filthy
rich from Soul Train and owns the studio where the show is currently taped.
He is often seen all over Los Angeles driving a Roll Royce.
Also, Cornelius is currently
going through a separation (and possibly a divorce) with his Russian model wife.
Pictured above, popular Soul Train dancers, L-R, Cheryl Sung and Denise "Neicey" Payne.