Tony GoGo freestyling in Salzburg
© Leo Rosas/Red Bull Content Pool
Dance

Explore the crews and moments that made locking history

Certain crews and incidents in the evolution of locking had a pivotal influence on its development. Find out about the most important ones right here.
Written by Tracy Kawalik
5 min readPublished on
Over the past 45 years locking has carved out a legacy that stretches all the way from the inner city streets of LA and the glitter covered dance floors of Soul Train to battles across the globe – gaining an international hype that could have never been reached without the pivotal cultural movements and the iconic crews that propelled the rise. Pioneers who made locking what it is, and whose names are behind the core moves taught in locking today. Worthy of four decades of respect, not only for routines that were smooth as hell, but because their fashion, style and tenacity against all the odds brought communities together and transformed locking from the ghettoes to becoming one of the freshest subcultures in history.

Meet 'The Lockers'

Don Campbell and iconic choreographer Toni 'Mickey' Basil founded ‘The Lockers’ in 1973 and changed the face of dance forever. One of the most legendary dance groups in history The Lockers (originally named ‘The Campbell Lockers’) set the foundation for all elements of locking style – from the execution of the moves all the way down to the fashion. With pioneers in the group such as Greggory 'Campbellock Jr.' Pope, Tony 'GoGo' Lewis, Fred 'Mr Penguin' Berry (a.k.a. Rerun), 'Fluky Luke', Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quinones and Bill 'Slim the Robot' Williams, The Lockers took the entertainment industry and the dance world by storm. They performed on Saturday Night Live, Soul Train, Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall, alongside numerous award shows, movies and their enormous solo careers.

The GoGo Brothers

While The Lockers might have clocked more recognition in the history books for appearances, the true OGs from the streets will tell you it was the GoGo Brothers that were locking Godfathers. Credited as the first ever synchronised locking group, the GoGo Brothers made their mark in dance history in 1972 as the first ever lockers to be seen on TV, during a basketball half-time performance. The trio (made up of Tony GoGo and legendary co-founders James 'SkeeterRabbit' Higgins and Edwin 'Buddy GoGo' Lombard) went on to rack up countless performances in numerous groups. Putting the GoGo stamp all over the infamous routines of crews like The Lockers, Creative Generation and Something Special, with founder Tony GoGo being responsible for bringing locking to Japan and leading the scene to where it is today.

Wattstax

In 1972 Memphis funk label Stax Records teamed up with the people of Watts to mark the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots and present a non-profit music festival called ‘Wattstax.’ The epic event not only featured legends such as The Bar-Keys and Issac Hayes, but one of the first clips in of the iconic locking handshake and the earliest clips of The Lockers. Tickets sold for only $1 to enable as many members from the community to attend and has been cited as the “the Afro-American answer to Woodstock”. Alongside The Lockers dancing in the film, locking dancers were also used for the first time on promotional posters for Wattstax. In 1974 a documentary of the concert was made featuring interludes from Richard Pryor and was nominated for several awards. In an interview talking about the significance of lockers in the film and in the movements following the Watts riots Stax Records owner, Al Bell, was quoted saying that the handshake and the street dance of locking from Soul Train was the visual manifestation of the spoken word of the times – and while we’re here, although she isn’t a known locker, there has to be a shout out to the incredible woman in the red polka dot dress who has become an icon from this clip in her own right!

The Soul Train

Locking exploded from block parties and nightclubs with Don Cornelius’s Soul Train. Nearly every notable locking OG danced on Soul Train, including Don 'Campbellock' Campbell, who despite his credit as the creator of locking and impact on the show, famously quit Soul Train to protest equal pay for the dancers. Most, if not all, of the Soul Train lockers went on to find fame, choreographing for artists from Tina Turner and MJ to James Brown. Continually inspiring fashion and wracking up YouTube hits and music videos today, such as ATL hip-hop heavyweights Migos' track Walk It Like I Talk It.

Jeffrey Daniel and The Moonwalk

Arguably one of the most significant moments in dance history came in 1982 on UK music show Top of the Pops when a member of The Lockers (Jeffrey Daniel) first performed the 'backslide', a little dance step you might know as the 'moonwalk. Daniel’s television performance to Shalamar's Night to Remember became an instant phenomenon, with Daniel being invited back two weeks later to dance again, gaining an instant fan in La Toya Jackson. La Toya putting Daniel onto her brother Michael Jackson who would later perform the 'moonwalk' on U.S. television and work extensively with Jeffrey. Alongside others, Daniel is always quick to give great credit to the man that inspired him, the original locker, Don Campbell.