'Soul Train' creator dead
- Police are investigating whether the wound was self-inflicted
- Cornelius used his own money to launch "Soul Train"
- The show premiered in 1970 and ran for 37 years
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Don Cornelius, the founder of the "Soul Train" television show, was found dead of a gunshot wound Wednesday, authorities said. He was 75.
Cornelius died of a gunshot wound at a house on Mulholland Drive, said Los Angeles police Officer Tenesha Dodine. Police responded to the call about 4 a.m. (7 a.m. ET), Dodine said.
An investigation was ongoing into whether the gunshot wound was self-inflicted, police said.
Cornelius created a pilot for "Soul Train" using $400 of his own money, according to the website biography.com. The show was named after a promotional event he put together in 1969, the site said.
"Soul Train is the longest running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history," according to the website of Soul Train Holdings. "During its 37-year run, the show featured such staples as the Soul Train line and performers as important and diverse as Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Beyonce."
In 2008, MadVision Entertainment and Intermedia Partners acquired "the iconic franchise and catalog of more than 1,100 hours of archival footage from Don Cornelius Productions," the site said.
Cornelius once told Advertising Age he credited Dick Clark, host of "American Bandstand," for teaching him "almost all of what I learned about mounting and hosting a dance show," according to biography.com.
The show, which premiered in August 1970, showed teenagers dancing to the latest soul and R&B music as well as featuring guest performances.
Over the years, Cornelius presented many famous performers to "Soul Train's" audience, including Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Lou Rawls and Aretha Franklin, biography.com said. However, the show did not always focus on soul and R&B music, featuring acts including David Bowie, Duran Duran and Robert Palmer, according to the site.
"But when audiences were watching the 'Soul Train' dancers for the next trend in fashion, true trendspotters knew to also watch Don Cornelius," according to an article posted on the Soul Train Holdings site. "... Has he ever looked like anything other than sharp? The answer to that question is no."
"Before Steve Harvey and his suits, Bobby Jones and Arsenio Hall, Don Cornelius was the original suit man," the article said. "For every outfit (he) deserves a standing ovation because he wore them well."
In September, a 40th anniversary "Soul Train" concert was held in Chicago's Millennium Park. Cornelius, a Chicago native, was honored at the event.
Cornelius began his career in broadcasting as part of WVON Radio in Chicago, which the Illinois General Assembly described in 2003 as "the first full-service, black-oriented music station in the city" as it congratulated the station on its 40th anniversary.
It was during his WVON days that he found himself at a show where the Jackson 5 performed in the mid-1960s, according to Time.
When a young Michael Jackson opened his mouth to sing, Cornelius recalled being blown away, he told Time after Jackson's death in 2009.
"He's only 4 feet tall, and you're looking at a small person who can do anything he wanted to do onstage -- with his feet or his voice," Cornelius said. "To get to the level of people who can do that, you're talking about James Brown as a performer. You're talking about Aretha Franklin as a singer. Michael was like that as a kid. He did it all, within the framework of one package. Nobody else did that."