Monday, December 7, 2009
Someone should study the cultural impact of the partnership between "Soul Train" and the Chicago-based Johnson Products Company. Owned by George E. Johnson, Johnson Products--not to be confused with Johnson Publications, which publishes Ebony and Jet--was a leading sponsor of the Train during its 1970 and 1980s heyday. And the commercials for Johnson Products' Afro Sheen and other hair goods featured proud and respectful depictions of black people--played out before a national audience.
George Johnson started the company with $500 in the 1950s. By 1971, Johnson Products was the first black-owned enterprise to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's hold on black hair care products slipped when the Revlons and Avons of the world elbowed their way into Johnson's market. The company was sold in 1993 and ultimately became part of L'Oreal.
But the commercials, which aired almost exclusively with Soul Train episodes, are priceless:
The Afro Sheen Blow-Out Kit! I got one when I was 8.
And dig these 1980s Classy Curl spots, one with Matt and Ola, who themselves became near-celebs behind this campaign (and dig a young Stacey Dash, bouncing her curl around in the second spot):
And we close with three classy spots from 1975: