HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Every morning before the sun even rises, you can find Joe Cobb at Ginger’s Popcorn Shop in Hot Springs. He’s owned the store, which is located on Central Avenue, for more than two decades.
While he enjoys working in his shop, many probably do not realize the connection Cobb has to the iconic show “Soul Train.” The Arkansas native’s voice is what many consider “the scream” at the beginning of the show that said, “The Soooooooooul Train.”
The popular dance and music show began playing in households in the 1970s, and Cobb was there from the very beginning.
“Of all the people affiliated with Soul Train from its inception, I’m the only one still alive,” Cobb explained.
Born in Camden, Arkansas, in 1943, Cobb moved to Little Rock when he was a teenager.
“I’m a southern guy. I’m not like, hey, Hollywood. That’s not me,” Cobb said.
He went on to graduate from Horace Mann High School in 1961 and then attended Arkansas AM&N, which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to get into communications,” Cobb said.
After two years in college, he packed his bags and moved to the Windy City to pursue his dreams.
“Three weeks after I was in Chicago, I had a job working morning drive on the radio station there,” Cobb recalled.
He worked for WVON’s morning drive for more than 35 years, and that was where he met Don Cornelius, the founder of “Soul Train.”
Cobb is one of the few who knows how the Soul Train really got on the tracks, explaining it all started with traveling concerts where they’d go to high schools in Chicago and feature local artists.
“We would go to the first school. The concert would last about an hour and a half and had a live band,” he recalled. “Then we’d pack up everything and go to the next school. And that was the train going from school to school.”
The show then got its start on a local TV station in Chicago before becoming a nationally syndicated show based in Los Angeles. Cobb has never been on TV, but his voice has been featured on the show since the very beginning and his name can be seen in the credits.
“I’m proud of it, but I’d be much prouder getting paid,” Cobb said.
Cobb said the money train from his voice work has come to a screeching halt, explaining that he had not received a royalty check from “Soul Train” since 2006.
“Once Don became ill and had his surgeries and all of that, and eventually sold the company, which wasn’t too long following my last paycheck from them in 2006, everything just went array,” Cobb said.
He has been fighting ever since to get his money. FOX 16 News reached out to Paramount Global, which now owns the rights to Soul Train, but the company did not return our calls.
“They may look at me as being a thorn in their side. I’m not trying to be a thorn in their side. I’m trying to be the entire bush,” Cobb said. “I mean, they owe me. It’s cut and dry.”
In the meantime, he said he’ll continue running things at his popcorn shop while fighting for what he feels his golden pipes have earned him.
Cobb’s lawyer said they are planning to sue Paramount and BET.