© 2021 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
This Week in Illinois History provides a 90-second snapshot of an event significant to Illinois history. Join Host Clint Cargile as he covers big events while also exposing little-known pieces of Illinois history.

This Week In Illinois History: Soul Train Premieres (August 17, 1970)

Soul Train
Don Cornelius interviews The 5th Dimension on Soul Train in 1974.

On August 17, 1970, "Soul Train" premiered on WCIU-TV in Chicago. It was the brainchild of Chicago native Don Cornelius, who hosted the show and funded it with his own money.

Cornelius worked as a journalist, insurance salesman, and police officer before his smooth, baritone voice got him into radio. He began promoting a series of live music shows that traveled to Chicago-area high schools. He called these shows “The Soul Train.”

Cornelius modeled the "Soul Train" TV show after Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Cornelius wanted to bring Black music, fashion and dance styles into American homes while portraying Black culture in a positive way.

The first year, "Soul Train" aired weekday afternoons in Chicago. It was an immediate success and the following year it moved into syndication, airing Saturday afternoons in cities across the country. Cornelius moved production of his hit show from Chicago to Los Angeles, though he continued to produce a local version in Chicago for most of the 1970s.

Cornelius hosted "Soul Train" until 1993. The show continued until 2006, making it one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history.

Related Stories