Diary of an Ex-Soul Train Dancer: Q&A With Former Soul Train Dancer Jimmy “SCOO B DOO” Foster, The Master Locker

Scoo B, Scoo B Doo, where are you? For years, many have wondered whatever became of Jimmy “Scoo B Doo” Foster, legendary Soul Train dancer and one of the major pioneers of the locking dance movement. His dance style was, as the saying goes, a force to be reckoned with as he won many awards and acclaim for his great dancing skills over the years. Rumors surfaced that he was homeless and had died many years ago. But quite to the contrary, Scoo B is alive and well and is teaching dance classes in Las Vegas, where he resides, and all across the U.S. and abroad. And as this reporter recently witnessed when attending one of his dance classes in New York City, at 59 years old, Scoo B Doo can still throw down on the dance floor doing and teaching all of the signature moves he created, the Scoo B Doo, the Scoo-Bot, the Stop and Go, the Scoo B Hop, the Scoo B Kick, the Scoo B Walk and a new one, The Pause, to a crowded class of eager-to-learn students. Indeed, Jimmy Scoo B Doo Foster is back!

Soul Train: Scoo B, thank you so much for granting us this interview. First off, where are you originally from?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I was born in Sacramento, CA, but was raised in Los Angeles.

Soul Train: What was childhood like for you?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Up until 7 years old, my childhood was great. But from 7 to 14, I experienced some really traumatic times.

Soul Train: What helped give you the ambition to get into dancing?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: When I was 15, two guys I went to Fremont High School with named Rudolph and Randolph invited me to a dance party given at noon. When I told them I couldn’t dance they told me that I didn’t have to dance but just come to the party and they assured me that if I did, I was going to have such a good time that I wasn’t going to want to go back to classes later. I was excited by all the dancing I saw, but I still didn’t dance. So after that party, I went to the house parties Randolph and Rudolph attended and just continued to observe the dancing; that was until I experienced bullying at some of those house parties.

Soul Train: So what happened after that in terms of your inspiration for dancing?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: When I was 16, Rudolph and Randolph told me about a club called Maverick’s Flat. This was in early 1970. The very first night I walked in there, that’s when I saw Don Campbell (creator of Locking and founder of the dance group The Lockers). As I was watching Don doing that dance, I was like, “Oh my God!” I was intrigued by this style of dancing. So I started practicing everyday. I practiced by myself in the beginning. I created the steps within locking.

Soul Train: So seeing Don Campbell locking at Maverick’s Flat gave you that zest for dancing, correct?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Absolutely. Don and I both had two left feet when it came to dancing. He is the creator of locking with the upper body movements. I got locking down about five months after seeing Don at Maverick’s Flat. The moves for locking came about by doing a lot of things accidentally like when he pointed at people who laughed at him because he didn’t know how to dance. That pointing became part of the moves. The moves also came about by doing funky things like when he gave himself five. That’s how it happened. But I created the dance steps within locking so I began practicing and creating the steps, the first of which was the Scoo B Doo. All of the steps I made up were in my feet. I combined locking with my style of dancing.

Soul Train: So after watching and observing Don, when did you guys eventually meet?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: One night, while at Maverick’s Flat, Don needed a ride home and he came up to me and asked, “Are you from anywhere around here?” I said “Yeah.” He asked, “Can I get a ride home?” And this is when we became best friends. After this, we started practicing dance steps together and he snuck me into various dance clubs. We became real buddies.

Soul Train: How did you get the nickname Scoo B Doo? An old issue of Right On magazine quoted you as saying its origin came because Scooby Doo was your favorite cartoon character.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: That’s not true. Flo Jenkins (the first editor of Right On magazine) didn’t specifically interview me for that article. Someone else just made up that story. Here is the real story behind my nickname: Don Campbell knew Scooby Doo was a popular cartoon. I had no knowledge of that cartoon. One day he just started saying, “Scooby Doo! Scooby Doo! Scooby Doo!” He just gave me that nickname. After that, the nickname craze of all street dancers began. It just went wild!

Soul Train: There was another dancer with your same nickname that caused confusion, right?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yeah! At some dance contests, there with the same name as mine. So my brother suggested that I do something to distinguish our nicknames so people knew exactly who I was. So I added my first name, Jimmy, to Scoo B Doo and so that’s how that came about, Jimmy Scoo B Doo.

Soul Train: So you, Don Campbell and the rest of the Lockers (the legendary dance group Don formed) became a tight bunch?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. Shabba Doo (Adolfo Quinones) and Campbell Lock Jr. (Greg Pope) were my roommates. Damita Jo Freeman (another popular Soul Train regular) gave Greg the nickname “Campbell Lock Jr.” because he was trying to look and dance like Don Campbell. I love Greg, Shabba Doo and Fluky Luke. They were my life and my closest friends and I would die for them.

Soul Train: Speaking of Damita Jo Freeman, you two were the most popular couple on “Soul Train” in its early days. How did you two meet?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I met Damita through Don Campbell at Maverick’s Flat. She, Don and a group of people all used to dance and hang together. She even named my dance the Scoo B Doo and we are real close friends to this day.

Soul Train: How did you become a Soul Train dancer?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Pam Brown (the dance coordinator of the show) asked Damita–who was already dancing on the show–to bring friends to Denker Park in Los Angeles. So she brought me, Little Joe Chism, and others, and we showcased our dancing skills and did the Soul Train line.

Soul Train: Describe what it was like the first time you went to Soul Train.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I was really amazed by what I saw. I was so in awe of all of the lighting, the cameras and how organized everything was.

Soul Train: What artist that performed on Soul Train stands out in your mind?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I remember a lot of great artists that really bought out the show like The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin and Al Green. But James Brown really stands out. He walked by me on the set and told me that he watches me every Saturday. The dancers even ate fried chicken with him after the tapings. He asked members of the Soul Train Gang to do shows with him. Whenever he would perform at the Los Angeles Forum, we would perform with him.

Soul Train: You have a very special memory of your first meeting with Michael Jackson.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I first met Michael Jackson in Los Angeles in late 1971 or early 1972.  Greg Pope, Don Campbell and Fred “Rerun” Berry, and I were at the theater and we saw Michael with some of his brothers. Michael went to use the bathroom and Greg and I went in afterwards. While inside, I said to Michael, “Hi, how are you?” Michael, himself a star, became star struck seeing me and said, “I know who you are Scoo B Doo!”

Soul Train: Aside from the guest stars and the dancing segments, what other memories stand out from your days of dancing on Soul Train?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: The late tapings and only getting a bucket of chicken afterwards! (Laughs)

Soul Train: You and Damita won a dance contest on Soul Train in which the Godfather of Soul James Brown was one of the judges. To be declared winners by the “hardest working man” in show business and a dance legend who paved the way for Michael Jackson and others must’ve been an honor.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: It was an incredible! This was a dance contest only for the members of the Soul Train Gang. It was great because it was voted on by Mr. Brown himself and the Soul Train staff. Nothing can really describe what that was like. Damita and I felt like we were both making history.

Soul Train: You among other members of the Soul Train Gang toured as part of the Soul Train Tour. What was that experience like?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: It was exciting! We toured with James Brown, the Sylvers, the Whispers, and other artists. We traveled on a bus going from city to city.

Soul Train: Being that you and Don Campbell were friends and you created the dance steps within locking, how come you weren’t part of the Lockers dance group?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Don and I didn’t agree on particulars that had to do with the dance scene so it was decided that I wasn’t going to be part of the group.

Soul Train: How did you feel about that?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: I was very upset while watching Don Campbell and the Lockers on “Carol Burnett” and other programs. But around 1974, Damita called me and said she was forming a new dance group called Something Special with members of the Soul Train Gang and that they were going to tour with Tom Jones. She invited me to be part of the group and I was with Something Special from 1974 to 1979 and we toured in the U.S. and overseas.

Soul Train: Around this time you left Soul Train, correct?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. Something Special’s manager, Daniel Ben AV, wanted me and the other dancers to leave the show because he felt we should be getting paid for our talent.

Soul Train: You also worked with Diana Ross in one of her TV specials. What was it like working with her?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: She really respected the dancers that worked alongside her. She knew me from dancing on Soul Train.  It was wonderful working with her.

Soul Train: What did you do after Something Special disbanded?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Don Campbell was dancing and doing random stripping at a club in Los Angeles called Chippendale’s. He asked me if I wanted to become a dancer there to make some extra money so I did. At that time, there were no official Chippendale dancers. I became the official first black male Chippendale dancer. I danced there until 1984.

Soul Train: What happened in your career afterwards?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: After leaving Chippendale’s in 1984, I had little gigs that I was doing as a male exotic dancer, but that’s not what I really wanted to do. I slowed down after that. Things took a turn for the worse and I had a lot of personal challenges and became depressed. My depression reached its peak in 1985 when one day I went to a library and looked through many old issues of “Right On” magazines and all of the photos of me and Pat Davis were cut out. By not seeing my photos in “Right On,” it made me feel like I was a nobody. That’s the way I took it and I went into a deep depression. I stayed out of the dance scene and didn’t lock anymore.

Soul Train: This was when the rumor that you died had started, correct

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. Around 1986. I did die emotionally and spiritually. I gave up on life. I was homeless and had little odd jobs here and there. I was living in and out of hotels and was hanging on Skid Row for seven years. It was an extremely difficult time for me.

Soul Train: So you were not involved with dancing or locking at all during that time, correct?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Right. However, during this time from 1985 to 1992, I studied the roots of locking and how it all began. I began to go over in my mind how locking came to be. I psychologically analyzed and dissected locking. I then moved to Las Vegas in 1993 and took on some regular jobs, but from 1993 to 2006, I was still psychologically studying and analyzing the movement and foundation of locking.

Soul Train: During this period of soul searching, did you have a spiritual center to keep you anchored?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Absolutely. My grandmother was a very spiritual person and she taught me to always believe that everything was going to be alright. The hardest time of my life was age 7 to 14 and somehow God bought me out of that. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel in every dark situation. I got my life back together with the Lord in 2003.

Soul Train: There was a very special person that came into your life in 2006, right?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. It happened when I was at the Fitzgerald Casino in Las Vegas. I was on the balcony praying to God to please bring someone into my life to help me. The next week, my future wife, Gina, passed by the same place and I was downstairs and she saw and spoke to me. Little did I know a week before, Gina and her girlfriends saw me at the casino but she didn’t want to meet me then. God brought Gina and me together and we got married in 2007.

Soul Train: Did Gina know that you were a former Soul Train dancer?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: (Laughs) No. I didn’t even tell her initially that I used to dance on Soul Train. In fact, when Gina and I went to dances, I wouldn’t dance. My wife was disappointed that I didn’t know how to dance, so she thought. But later on, once she found out more about me and that I was a popular regular on Soul Train, she was surprised that I kept that information from her! (Laughs)

Soul Train: 2010 began the reemergence of Scoo B Doo and people found out you were not dead after all. Explain how all of this came about.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: In January 2010, my wife Gina typed my nickname into the Internet search engines and came up with all kinds of things about me and my influence on dance. One of the things that came up was the webpage www.lockerlegends.net, stating that my very close and dear friend Greg Pope passed away. I was so hurt by his death and I wanted to express my condolences. So since I was not that familiar with using the Internet, Gina went to the locker legends website and typed a message stating something like “My name is Jimmy Scoo B Doo Foster and I want to express my condolences over the passing of Greg Pope.” One of the moderators of that site, Skeeter Higgins, another good friend of mine from years ago, replied and got in touch with her.  We reunited and he posted photos of him and me on the locker legends website along with a story that I was very much alive.

Soul Train: The VH1 documentary “Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America” also played a part in your reemergence, right?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. When I was watching that documentary, I was so gratified by all of the footage shown of me and that Don Cornelius mentioned my name. It really boosted my self-confidence and helped me to realize my contributions to dance and locking.

Soul Train: As a result, you have been teaching numerous dance shops in Las Vegas since last year, correct?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. I teach all the dance steps that I created within locking, the Scoo B Doo, the Scoo Bot and others. I have also formed the Elite Locking Camp where I teach dancers all about the movement, history and dance steps of locking.

Soul Train: Please tell the interesting conversation with Howard Schwartz, the head of Hip Hop International.

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: He called and told me that he knew who Shabba Doo, Rerun, and the rest of the Lockers were, but wanted to know what part I played in locking. He never heard of my name prior to getting in contact with me. I explained to him that Don Campbell created the locking moves but I was the first person to create the dance steps within the style of locking. Three months later, Howard called me back and told me that I am just as big as the Lockers and asked if I realized that I was a legend.  He said that at Hip Hop International he was going to announce me as the legendary Scoo B Doo.

Soul Train: How can people find out more information about your classes?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: They can visit me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Jimmy-Scoo-B-Doo and they can also visit my website, http://www.jimmyscoobdoofoster.com, which should be up and running soon.

Soul Train: Do you have a special message you would like to share with the readers of Soultrain.com?

Jimmy Scoo B Doo: Yes. This is very important. Besides locking being a dance, locking is the first dance I ever did in my life. It made me happy, it made me feel good and free. That’s what locking is all about, that’s how it was created, out of loving life. People who want to study locking need to stay out of the politics of locking. Locking was born out of love and is about love, friendship and family. It’s all about the love of the dance, not the politics.

— Stephen McMillian

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In addition to being a dancer/performer, Stephen McMillian is also an up and coming actor and filmmaker.

 



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