“It was like nothing you had ever seen … He gave us more than steps … Cholly gave us wisdom.  He taught us how to touch an audience and about living life.  He was Motown’s father figure.”

~ Duke Fakir, Member of The Four Tops

Charles Sylvan Atkinson was born on September 13, 1913 in Pratt City, Alabama to Christine Woods and Sylvan Atkinson.  In 1920, his mother left the South with him and his brother, Spencer, to move to Buffalo, New York in search of better opportunities.  Upon settling there, Charles soon became involved in the variety shows presented by his elementary physical education teacher and coach and winning local talent shows.  His passion for performance ignited and by the time he entered secondary school, Charles was balancing his academics with extracurricular activities including sports and dancing. 

When he was sixteen years, he accepted a position as a performing waiter at Alhambra on the Lake, a club outside Buffalo.  This was his entry into the professional career of dancing and also marked his first performance partnership.  Later linking up with fellow server, William Porter, they connected, calling themselves, “Two Rhythm Pals”.  They added tap dance, including combinations, from a professional chorus line dancer, Katherine Davis.

For greater enlightenment...