Don Cornelius, the creator and longtime host of the groundbreaking music show "Soul Train," has died, the Huffington Post and other news sites are reporting. He was 75.
According to a story in today's Los Angeles Times , a family member arrived at his Mulholland Drive home in Encino on Wednesday morning and found Cornelius with a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said. That family member was one of Cornelius' two sons, according to a report on TMZ.
He was rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 4:56 a.m., according to an Associated Press story on today's USA Today website.
Cornelius' death is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. County coroner's office.
The sources said detectives think it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound but stressed they are still investigating.
A radio news announcer by trade, Cornelius began moonlighting at WCIU-TV in the 1960s, according to a story in today's Huffington Post. While there, he toyed with the idea of creating an African-American version of "American Bandstand," Dick Clark's influential music show, with live dancing five days a week, the story reports.
On Aug. 17, 1970, the first episode of Soul Train premiered on the Chicago station, with Jerry Butler and the Chi-Lites among the first guests, according to a report on The Wall Street Journal website; By the following year, it was being syndicated in other markets.
In a shrewd busines move, Cornelius started a production company and moved the show to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1971, producing the show in color for the first time, according to the Wall Street Journal story.
Johnson Products was the lead sponsor and the company's products, including Afro-Sheen, were prizes for a name-the-performer feature on each show. Only a handful of stations signed on for the first season, but by 1974 nearly 100 stations carried the show, and the biggest names in black pop music were appearing weekly.
"Soul Train" became the longest-running nationally syndicated show in history, airing from 1971 through 2006, according to a story in the Black Voices section of The Huffington Post.
The show brought African-American music and style into dens and living rooms every Saturday in Cascade and across the country for almost four decades.
"Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business," Quincy Jones said, according to the USA Today story. "Before MTV, there was Soul Train— that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched."