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'Soul Train' comes alive in Winston-Salem

'Soul Train' comes alive in Winston-Salem

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This story first appeared Feb. 14, 2012. During Black History Month, the Journal is looking back at some of the people and places we've written about over the years.

As James Brown's "Papa Don't Take No Mess" got louder Sunday, the homemade "Soul Train" line in a Winston-Salem recreation center got a little crazy — as if host Don Cornelius himself had given his signature benediction to start "the hippest trip in America."

Two by two, dancers came down the line, flashing their best moves — the same moves they did in the 1970s and watched "Soul Train" on TV every Saturday morning. Greg "Catman" Good popped his elbows out, froze them for a second and then rolled his arms into a snake, all to the beat and the delight of the crowd.

"We weren't on TV that much back then. If you wanted to see black folks on TV, you watched 'Soul Train,' " he said before the dance line formed.

The event at the Carl Russell Recreation Center was part of Black History Month, said lead organizer Ben Piggott.

Cornelius committed suicide about two weeks ago. His brainchild, "Soul Train," which ran for 35 seasons until 2006, is revered as one of the first national programs to feature Black artists — and the moves, fashion and hairstyles of the day.

Most people who watched the program can still remember their morning ritual. Maybe it was a bowl of cereal, the morning cartoons and then a chance to see which new band would be featured. For Felecia Piggott-Long, an English teacher at Carver High School, "Soul Train" will forever be linked with housework.

"Now, don't sit down there in front of your TV unless you've got your housework done," said Piggott-Long, affectionately recalling what her mother used to tell her before the show.

Neither will she soon forget Cornelius' signature signoff wishing all love, peace and soul.

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