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Photo Exhibit Commemorates Legacy Of ‘Soul Train’

Don Cornelius

Don Cornelius, host of ‘Soul Train.’ (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The pioneering TV series “Soul Train” is starring once again in Chicago – this time in photographs.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, the display is mounted in the 72 E. Randolph St. building, where Hot Tix are sold.

The display commemorates the 40th anniversary of Soul Train, which former police officer Don Cornelius started in a tiny broadcasting studio in Chicago’s Board of Trade building.

Among the guests on that first show was soul singer Jerry “Iceman” Butler, who still sings some when he’s not in his commissioner’s chair on the Cook County Board.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

Those who have appeared over the years include: Michael Jackson, James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Temptations, Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder.

Dorothy Burge said she believes the Civil Rights movement of the 60s paved the way for Soul Train of the 70s where black teens could see other black teens just living their lives, wearing their clothes and doing their dances — as people to be respected just for themselves.

Burge’s friend, Mary Scott Boria, said, “It’s hard to believe we had hair that big,” as she toured through the 55 never-before-seen pictures of performers and guests on the program.

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Michelle Boone saw “Soul Train” as a voice for her life in the 1970s.

“I can remember rushing home from school ishing I was old enough to dance on the show,” she said. “Every girl back then had a crush on Michael Jackson and hoped that he’d be a guest.”

As an adult and city official now, she sees it as a major cultural milestone.

“It was the only program for African-Americans to see themselves on TV,” she said. “This was the first of its kind. It was the first opportunity that we had to see the people who were our role models, celebrities, on TV doing their thing.”

She termed the exhibit whimsical and historical, adding, “I see Curtis Mayfield, Temptations, Emotions, even Richard Pryor, and the Jackson Five.”

“Soul Train” premiered on WCIU-TV, Channel 26, on Aug. 17, 1970. , and moved to national syndication in October 1971. Production for program also moved to Los Angeles at that time.

The program aired on CBS 2 for a while in the 1970s before moving to WGN-Channel 9, where it was seen until its run ended in 2006.