Diary of an Ex-Soul Train Dancer: Remembering Greg “Campbell Lock Jr.” Pope

Greg Pope, aka Campbell Lock Jr., was a member of the pioneering dance group The Lockers. Along with Shabba Doo, Fred “Penguin” Berry, Leo “Fluky Luke” Williamson, Bill “Slim the Robot” Williams, Toni Basil, and the dance group’s founder Don Campbell, he amazed audiences with his intricate locking dance skills.

Dave Gregory Pope was born to Dave and Catherine Pope on April 5, 1952 in Calhoun, Alabama. He and his family later moved to California in 1960, settling in Compton. Pope graduated from Compton High School in 1970.

Greg Pope photoMany people don’t know that Pope’s creative aspirations began with guitar lessons at age 15. He also enjoyed art, drawing cartoons and portraits, and had an interest in electronics. He was also an excellent swimmer and learned to surf. But his dancing prowess took shape while in high school when filling in as the high school mascot.

Dancing was in Pope’s blood. His parents entered ballroom dance contests before and up to the time Pope was born (Pope’s mother, Catherine, passed away in 1968). One Saturday afternoon in early 1972, while Pope and his family were watching Soul Train, Pope’s father asked him if he thought he could dance as well as the Soul Train Gang. His response was that he could dance just as well or better! As a matter of fact, Pope bet his father that the next time his father watched Soul Train, he would be on the show. Pope kept his word and came aboard the Soul Train at the June 1972 taping, staying with the show until 1974 and becoming one of the most popular regulars and best dancers on the show. He also frequented many of the various clubs in Los Angeles such as Maverick’s Flat and the Citadel, and entered and won many dance contests.

In 1972, Pope met Don Campbell, the inventor of locking and founder of the legendary Lockers dance group. Pope emulated Campbell’s moves with such precise perfection that popular Soul Train regular Damita Jo Freeman bestowed him with the nickname “Campbell Lock Jr.” In 1973, Pope became a member of the Lockers, the group that changed the face of dance.

Pope was a master of dance, incorporating improvisational and acrobatic steps into his routines. He was also the “line captain” of the group.

Lockers on Soul TrainThe Lockers accomplished a lot in a short period of time. Aside from dancing on Soul Train, they gained even more popularity appearing on Carol Burnett in September 1973, and received their first big professional break at the MGM Grand Hotel in December 1973 opening for Frank Sinatra. They also opened for Sinatra when he played Carnegie Hall. They toured the country in over 24 live performances, opening for Bill Cosby at Harrah’s Tahoe, The Ohio Players at Radio City Music Hall, and Cheech & Chong at the Roxy, and opened concerts for other groups such as Parliament/Funkadelic and Graham Central Station.

The Lockers appeared in motion pictures, television commercials, and other television shows such as Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, The Grammy Awards, a Doris Day special, and even had their own Saturday morning children’s television special. They made a memorable appearance as “The Rockets” on the fourth episode of What’s Happening! in 1976.

The Lockers made a triumphant return to Soul Train at its December 1974 taping as a professional dance group, and made another appearance on its August 1976 taping not only to perform but to judge a national dance contest. In short, the Lockers made street dance an accepted American art form and paved the way for all street dancers to come.

In 1993, Pope began teaching dancers around the world about the roots and techniques of locking, allowing a new generation to learn about this legendary dance step. Pope not only continued performing, but also instructed dance and judged dance competitions in France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China, Brazil, Canada, and Russia.

Pope was a fun loving spirit who was loved by many. On the evening of January 27, 2010, all of the Lockers reunited (Fred “Rerun” Berry passed away in 2003) at the Choreographers Carnival to receive a special award. But during that evening, Pope became ill and he passed away the following day. At his funeral, he was fondly remembered by a host of relatives and friends, including his fellow Lockers.

Pope’s students from around the world benefited from all of his teaching techniques and his impact on dance will always be remembered and cherished.

—Stephen McMillian

Journalist, actor, filmmaker, dancer, performer, writer, poet, historian and choreographer. That’s Stephen McMillian.

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