The West Coast Scene
“Locking was the very first professional street dance. Locking was created by Don Camelot Campbell sometime in the late 60’s. He was trying to learn to do the funky chicken… he couldn’t do it, and stumbled onto the style of locking.”
- Fred “The Penguin” Berry (aka Re Run)
The development of the west coast hip-hop scene shared similar characteristics of the hardships and evolution of its east coast counterpart. This redefined branch of hip-hop developed its own inimitable identity from its own roots of electronic dance and disco fever parallel to the east's hosting of block-parties with new waves of sub-cultural re-invention of James Brown’s funk and reggae scene by way of fathering this new genre. The emergence of DJs and MCs evoked the passionate beginning of the movement itself and had already left the DJ and B-boy in the shadows in favour of the MC before spilling out into the west coast. Striking at the time where disco and electronic funk was failing to captivate the dance floor, many solo west coasts artist came about by trying to emulate their east coast brothers only to find they were better off representing their own social-inequalities and adversity endured. The ambiance was right and darkening into concentrative energy of creative anger set to define the west coast branch-off as hardcore Gangsta rap.
The elements were practised but distinctly with a west coast insignia, graffiti played a completely different role in society than of the east. Gang slogans and signing death warrants by crossing out territorial tags scrawled by the enemy changed the purpose from art to war.
After the disastrous 1965 riots in Watts, the lower-economic surrounding region of downtown Los Angeles, South Central, brought up a shy young teenage street performer at his first year at LA Trade Technical College. He would make the first inadvertent steps of a new popular dance movement that would bloom throughout the club scene at the time when the west coast club scene was locked into an identity crisis before the disco phenomenon would take over the world.
The young visionary, Don Campbell would attempt to dance and momentarily freeze or lock-up in various comical pauses in specific poses. Friends and onlookers would cheer each time he repeated this routine. Upper body movement evolved from this with gyrating hand and arm movements like a hyperactive traffic controller in white gloves together with sudden erratic pauses, Campbell would improvise moves and incorporate props from his current environment. Every time he would, for what he perceived to be a mistake or fall over he received applause. Watts’ pulse was revived and a revolutionary new dance was born ‘The Campbellock’. It wasn’t long before this craze reached the nation and Campbell would cruise the club circuit recruiting dancers to join him. By 1973 he had assembled a brimming and bright dance crew called The Campbellock Dancers. The line-up included Penguin, (Fred Berry), Slim the Robot, Fluky Luke, the flexible and acrobatic Campbellock Jr.(Greg Pope), Toni Basil and later Shabba-Doo Quinones. They were unmistakable in large apple hats, knickers, striped socks and suspenders. They became the face of the funk movement of the ‘70s. Every move was the personification of the rhythm, soul and spirit of funk music.
Due to legal problems the name of the group was changed to Lockers and they travelled the nation and were received with celebrity status. They worked alongside Bill Cosby, Lucille Ball, Stevie Wonder and opened for Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas. Like most success stories there was a rift within the group that tore them apart, with Toni Basil, Shabba-Doo and Greg Pope leaving to attain personal goals elsewhere. Basil would later become a successful choreographer and recording artist with the number 1 pop hit ‘Mickey’ in 1982. Fred Berry had left to star in a television series ‘What’s Happening’ as the character Rerun.
The lockin’ flame had burnt out by the late ‘70s with the disco fever swarming the scene and with new advanced dance routines holding aspiring dancers captivated. A new wave of an updated version of the Robot had made it onto the scene of Long Beach to Fresno.
In the middle of this was a young ‘Boogaloo Sam’ Soloman and his click the Electric Boogaloo Lockers, still enthralled by the locking traditions which was their major contributing influence. After Soloman saw a man walking with an obvious disability he envisioned a new dance. He called this distinctive angular movement the Old Man. They were inspired by early cartoon exaggerations, slinky toys, a wavering drunk and miming formats. With the intention of cracking Hollywood stardom Boogaloo Sam came to LA where his half brother Pop’in Pete Soloman lived. The group recreated themselves as the Electric Boogaloos and they carried the torch for the new generation of urban dance. At this same period were many clicks developing their own unique dance styles, the Fillmore Boppin’ and Dime-Stopping.