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