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New Photography Exhibit Captures Soul Train's Chicago Heyday

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 22, 2011 4:00PM

Even though most of Soul Train's run in syndication was recorded in Los Angeles, the roots of the longest-running program in syndication (until Entertainment Tonight and Wheel of Fortune pass it were right here in Chicago at the WCIU studios. Host and creator Don Cornelius was a backup DJ and newsreader at WVON and was producing concerts at local high schools called "The Soul Train" when WCIU-TV took notice of the success Cornelius was having with the traveling caravans and offered him an opportunity to create an African American version of American Bandstand.

At its zenith, Soul Train captured the best in Black fashion, music and culture and transmitted it across the nation. Growing up on the northwest side in the late 70s and 80s, we rarely missed a chance to waste an hour watching artists lip sync to their latest hits with varying degrees of professionalism, the Soul Train dancers and their signature dance line, the Soul Train scramble board and Cornelius' trademark signoff of "peace, love and soul."

A new photography exhibit opening tonight at Expo 72, produced by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture and Soul Train Holdings LLC showcases 55 never-before-seen images taken from the Soul Train soundstage. These are just a fraction of the over 300,000 photos in the Soul Train archives.

Tonight's opening from 5-7 p.m. will also feature local DJ legend Steve "Silk" Hurley spinning tunes. Starting next Friday, the City will host a "Friday Night Groove" after-work event, with a different DJ spinning, that runs through September 2.

Soul Train Photo Exhibition opens tonight from 5-7 p.m. at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St.