Soul Train was the ‘hippest trip in America.’
The show was broadcast from the top of the Chicago Board of Trade on WCIU-TV Channel 26 before it went national in 1971. Who would’ve thunk a show featuring home-grown talent including The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, and others would, in a few short years become the icon it became.
Soul Train was recorded, of all places, the Chicago Board of Trade at WCIU’s old studio’s on the top floor. The show debuted in Chicago on WCIU as a live show weekday afternoons starting on August 17, 1970.
Beginning as a low-budget affair, in black and white, the first episode of the program featured Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lites, and the Emotions as guests. When the show made it to syndication, the premiere episode included The Honeycone, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight & The Pips along with Bobby Hutton.
Don Cornelius was our host, engineering the train through all its best years. Don Cornelius did things and made things happen no one even thought about. He did so many things before so many others and against all odds. He believed in the music, the power of the people, and most importantly, he believed in himself.
From the music to fashion, the dancers and the dancing, as times changed, the show changed with them. Funk and soul gave way to disco, rap, and hip hop, and still, Soul Train stayed true to its personality, character, and style. After 35 years of wishing audiences “love, peace, and soul,” Soul Train’s run came to an end in 2006.
As for Don Cornelius, God rest his soul, his health was in decline and in Feb. 2012, he was found unresponsive in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. What a true American icon.
Enjoy history as it happened with episodes and the live performances that made Saturdays so great back in the day thanks to a true visionary, the late Mr. Don Cornelius.
For more on the show, click here.
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