*There is no doubt that sentiments continue to be high over the loss of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius.
The Grammy Awards lackluster mention of him, nor the loss of the beloved Whitney Houston can dilute the savory impact of Soul Train on the music industry and especially on black culture. Within the 1970’s phase of Black America’s development was the evolution of the product line that sponsored Soul Train and the infamous Soul Train Scramble Board. The company was Johnson Products, which was founded in 1954, and it is from them that we now learn how the business of Soul Train was structured and sustained.
Current Johnson Products CEO Eric Brown comments:
“It’s important for people to know about the business relationship between these two men, and what they were able to do because of it.”
The men referenced were of course the late Don Cornelius and the other is George Ellis Johnson, founder and former President of Johnson Products. Together, they were the pillar of the Soul Train brand. Mr. Johnson’s hair company was flourishing in 1971 but he fancied television production. When he discovered a dance show (which aired in black and white) on a UHF channel in Chicago, he was intrigued by the soulful moves of the teens and the cool confidence of the host. He immediately saw a co-branding opportunity. Mr. Johnson got in touch with Cornelius and re-shot the show in color. Johnson Products then financed the production and the cost of the guest artists on the show for a 50/50 partnership. The grooming products were a fit for Soul Train’s consumer base, and Soul Train’s trend setting styles were consistent with the self expression of the day. The music, the fashion, the hair and everything about this entity was a perfect fit. The Soul Train/George Johnson partnership grew Johnson Products from $12.5 million in revenue in 1971 to $37 million by 1975.
Eric Brown further comments on the Johnson/Cornelius partnership:
“We are pleased to have been a part of the legacy of these two men and these two companies.”
Ironically Eric Brown and his wife Renee’ Cottrell Brown are former top executives at Pro-Line International, a subsidiary of Alberto Culver. Pro-Line is also the company founded by Comer Cottrell, Renee Cottrell-Brown’s father. The Browns have now pooled their expertise to helm a company that was once a competitor.
Eric and Renee’ Brown told EURweb what their focus is for today’s Johnson Products:
“When we acquired the company from Proctor and Gamble, one of the first things we wanted to do was establish that we were a company concerned about the community. We started community initiatives such as No Excuse Stop The Abuse (a campaign to support domestic violence awareness) and other initiatives to demonstrate that.”
In this video from Johnson Products show Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell Brown interview Johnson Products founder George Johnson about his partnership with Don Cornelius.
The late Don Cornelius also cited Johnson Products founder George E. Johnson as his mentor.
Johnson Products has issued this statement about the loss of pop icon Whitney Houston:
“We at Johnson Products were deeply saddened when we learned of the death of Whitney Houston. Here in Dallas the news of her passing was felt very deeply. We are very concerned about her daughter who is struggling to come to grips with this reality. Her entire family is in our prayers.”
Eric Brown and Renee Cottrell Brown acquired Johnson Products in a newly formed independent entity comprised of Los Angeles-based private equity firms Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, LP and St. Cloud Capital LLC, along with an African-American management team of industry veterans. Johnson Products currently offers more than 60 hair care products under the Gentle Treatment® and Ultra Sheen® brands. For more information on the newly acquired Johnson Products Company, its family of brands and to download photographs of the new management team, visit the company’s Website at www.johnsonproducts.com.