Paxton Baker talks ‘Soul Train Awards,’ Cedric the Entertainer and the late Don Cornelius

Paxton Baker talks ‘Soul Train Awards,’ Cedric the Entertainer and the late Don Cornelius

Paxton Baker’s fondest memory growing up of “Soul Train” was being introduced to two of his biggest musical heroes — Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. As CEO of Centric Networks, Baxter has set high standards for the legendary brand, which recently launched the Soul Train Cruise, merchandising and the expansion of the “Soul Train Awards” into a three-day weekend experience, honoring the best in music, comedy and entertainment.

The “Soul Train Awards 2012” will premiere on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, at 8 p.m. EST on Centric.

Read what Baker has to say about the evolution of Centric and “Soul Train.”

yvette caslin

What can we expect at the “Soul Train Awards 2012?”

An amazingly exciting show and one that is filled with great performances … [There will be] some surprising award winners in various categories on the show. We have ever category from “Best New Artist” to “Song of the Year” to “Songwriter of the Year.” There is a nice blend.

The performances are nothing short of amazing. We’d like to think that it’s easily one of the most entertaining shows on television this year.

This is the first awards show since the passing of “Soul Train’s” founder, Don Cornelius. How are you preserving his legacy?

Don Cornelius was the master at introducing new talent at the same time showcasing talent that you are familiar with, know and love. He made you comfortable in taking chances and trying new things.

We’d like to think that we followed in that tradition of quality production that’s entertaining and exciting and at the same time exposed you to something new.

How is it working with the show’s two-time host Cedric the Entertainer?

It’s a lot of fun. Cedric is a consummate professional and just literally a fun and funny person to be around. The part that I learned after working with him for two years is how much work and preparation he puts in to his craft.

Cedric is not funny by accident. He’s funny because he works at it. He’s not the type of person to deliver a joke that falls flat. He’s done his research and the work before he goes into it. When you see the product of the Cedric the Entertainer, you see somebody who’s studied a lot and has put in a lot of effort into what he’s presenting to you.

Name one of your biggest successes with the Soul Train Awards.

I had a chance to “right” something last year. Earth, Wind & Fire had never performed on “Soul Train” during the whole era. Last year, we presented Earth, Wind & Fire with the legend award. It was righting something that for whatever reason didn’t come together during the ’70s and ’80s that should have. “Soul Train” and Earth, Wind & Fire are two great organizations with a strong legacy. Earth, Wind & Fire is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and we are in year 41.

Tell us more about the Soul Train Cruise.

The Soul Train Cruise for February 2013 sold out at the end of May 2012. It went so well, they added a second cruise for October 2013. We are pre-planning for February 2014, believe it or not. It’s a great brand.

It speaks to the spending power of the African American consumer … we spend money on products that we have an interest in and appeal to us. It’s nice to be successful. We believe in the African American adult consumer, as a company. We think that if you present a great product, they will show up and participate in big numbers.

Why did “Soul Train Awards” leave Atlanta and go west to Las Vegas to tape?

We had a warm and wonderful reception in Atlanta. As a company, BET continues to tape the bulk of its shows, 85 to 90 percent there.  The series and the “BET Hip Hop Awards” are shot in Atlanta.

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world and on our end we wanted to put together a weekend vacation package. It has a lot of attractions: the arcades, the shows and the shopping. We surrounded “Soul Train Awards” with an All-Star Comedy show featuring comedian George Wallace and concert with Miguel, Tyrese, Ginuwine, Tank and New Edition – Soul Train Awards 2012 Lifetime Achievement recipients.

What other programming can we look forward to on Centric?

We have a new series called “Apollo Live,” which will premiere at 10:30 p.m. EST on BET and Centric after the “Soul Train Awards.” The “Soul Train Red Carpet” show will also simulcast on BET and Centric at 7 p.m. EST and precede the award show which airs at 8 p.m. EST.

“Apollo Live,” a spinoff of the original variety show and contest “Showtime at the Apollo,” will feature Tony Rock as the host and Atlanta native Gladys Knight, Doug E. Fresh and New Edition’s Michael Bivins as judges.

We have great brands on both networks. For us to have a relationship with “Soul Train” and the Apollo, it humbles us and bring things full circle; we’re participating with great, iconic brands in the African American community.

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