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25th Annual "Soul Train" Awards Airs Sunday; Stars Remember Don Cornelius

CentricThe 25th annual Soul Train Awards airs Sunday night on BET and Centric, airing on both channels at 9 p.m. E.T.  Taped earlier this month in Las Vegas, the entire event served as a tribute to the late Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, who died February 1 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"He was a good friend of mine," Eddie Levert told reporters on the red carpet.  "I miss him. -- We miss him sorely, because we had great times together."

The O'Jays lead vocalist says he and his groupmates were one of the first acts to perform on Soul Train, appearing on the show when it was still based in Chicago.  The studio was "very small" and "very hot," Eddie recalls, laughing.  "But it was one great experience, because we went from there to [Los Angeles] California with him and everything. He took us right along with him."

Years later, Charlie Wilson -- then the lead singer for the Gap Band -- would have his shot on the Soul Train stage.  It was an "incredible time," Charlie says, remembering the band's performance of its 1979 hit "Shake." "We were all nervous and Don Cornelius calmed us down, and we went on and did our performance and we made history."

Charlie was among this year's Soul Train Awards performers, joining other acts, including Miguel, Keyshia Cole and New Edition.

When New Edition formed in 1978, the then-youngsters couldn't have know that more than 30 years later, they'd be honored with the 2012 Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.  As teens, the guys didn't even believe that they'd ever perform on the Soul Train show.

"I kept telling New Edition that we was going to be on there," Bobby Brown says.  "And they laughed me out of the room during a rehearsal. So my favorite moment was just being able to show them that we would make it to Soul Train."

Elle Varner, who sings a remix of her song "Refill" during the awards show, said she was looking forward to getting "a lesson in... classic music, classic soul. I'm expecting to blown away by the performers. -- I'm so excited. It's going to be a great show."

The singer most certainly got her wish.  As previously reported, Stevie Wonder was the evening's surprise guest star.  He paid homage to Don inviting about a dozen of the show's performers and presenters to come on stage for a group rendition of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio