Getting to know Doug Banks
When the Soul Train Cruise promises that you’ll get up close and personal with the legends of R&B, they really mean it. Want to sit in the custom-designed studio that radio superstar Doug Banks will host his daily show from? You got it. Laugh out loud or shout amen at his uncanny observations about life, love and late-breaking news? Oh yeah, Banks will hear every bit of it. And he’s gonna love it, too. The 411 recently spoke with Banks about bringing his show to the Soul Train Cruise and what he’s got in store for his live audience aboard the ship.
“When we do our show from the ship, we’ll be right in front of people,” Banks told the 411 last week from his home just before taping his daily broadcast. The award-winning radio personality thrives so much on hearing what his listeners have to say that the Soul Train Cruise is giving him the rare opportunity to run his weekday show in front of a live audience. And he doesn’t want to stop there. If you run into him on the Lido Deck? “Bring it on,” he says with a warm smile. “We’re going to be together for several days … I’ll get to know everyone pretty well by the end of the trip.”
It’s this kind of utter devotion to his audience that has made Banks one of the biggest voices on the radio today. Starting out while still a high school student in Detroit, Banks moved on to radio shows in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago, building an army of loyal listeners along the way. “I wish I could sit here and tell you that I was some radio genius,” Banks laughs as he reflects on his rise to the top. “I will be very honest with you. When I first came to Chicago and was working at WBMX, I was doing mornings, and I remember the first day [legendary radio promotion director] Lee Michaels asked me what my plan was, and I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ll just go on the air and be myself and people will either like what I bring to the table or turn it off.' And I am so blessed that it all worked out, that people liked it.”
It’s that honest approach, that humble philosophy that draws in millions of people around the country to listen to “The Doug Banks Show” every day. Some have been following him since his early years at Los Angeles’ hip-hop powerhouse KDAY, or fell for his no-holds-barred take on the news of the day during his stint at Los Angeles’ talk-radio station KFI. He’s got lots of fans in Las Vegas who remember him well from his show on KLAV, and those folks up in the Bay Area, too, who heard him on KDAI. And just like “Soul Train,” it was in Chicago that Banks made the leap from the local airwaves to the national stage. Don Cornelius had long been an inspiration, and the fact that Cornelius had paved the road Banks was following was not lost on the young radio host.
“Don Cornelius to me was a trendsetter and trailblazer,” explains Banks. “What a lot of people don’t know is that he was doing the news on a local radio show in Chicago and then would go do a half-hour radio show in the afternoon. I grew up in Detroit and would go visit my uncle who worked at Jet magazine in Chicago, and I remember sitting in his apartment in the afternoon watching Channel 26, watching Don Cornelius and “Soul Train.” So it’s a real honor to be where I am today, and it’s a real honor to be on the Soul Train Cruise.”
Banks continued to watch “Soul Train” for years after it moved to Los Angeles and became an international phenomenon. No matter what year it was, the music, the fashion and the culture were as exciting to him as the first times he watched the show. “I go back to the earliest days of the show. I can remember at one point I was in Harper Hospital in Detroit as a kid, and on Saturday morning, all the nurses would finish their rounds as fast as they could and come in my room and watch ‘Soul Train.’” In later years, he would meet his “Soul Train” dream girl, the iconic dancer Cheryl Song, whose moves, spirit, and long, long hair won the hearts of young men across the country. “It was like a family thing, when you sat down and watched the show every week. Those people became a part of your life.” Even after all this time, Banks remains an excited fan, and it’s a bit of an understatement to say that he is looking forward to reconnecting with Song on the Soul Train Cruise.
But there’s more, so much more, that Banks wants to do on board. “There is so much entertainment on this boat that I can only hope that I can see all the artists. Between the performances and the Q&A periods and the meet-and-greets and wine parties …” he trails off, overwhelmed for a moment by the endless possibilities that lie ahead. “I am always up for a Frankie Beverly and Maze show,” he says with anticipation in his voice. “Gladys is always one of my favorites. KC, the Stylistics, The Spinners, Regina … I am looking forward to seeing them all. It’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful time. A great experience. I jumped at the chance to be a part of this.”
Want to catch your favorite R&B superstars in concert just like Doug? Book your cabin aboard the Soul Train Cruise today!
Passionate about music and passionate about cruising. Put 'em together and I'm in heaven -- you can catch up with me on a themed cruise and, especially, on an Entertainment Cruise!