A Rendezvous With A Prince!

December 1979

Right On!

A Rendezvous With A Prince! [title possibly incomplete or incorrect]

by Cynthia Horner

MIDNIGHT — MY PLEASANT SLEEP WAS DISTURBED BY THE PERSISTENT RINGING OF THE TELEPHONE IN MY EAR. Sleepily I answered it still dazed at the lateness of my call. “Hello,” I said exhaustedly. “Hello,” a quiet familiar voice replied. “This is Prince. I want to talk to you.”

Only the deepest of slumber would prevent me from instantly knowing which Prince was on the other end of my hotline, “Prince who?” The nineteen-year-old recording artist mimicked my puzzled tone. “How could you ever forget me?”

Awakening suddenly, I was able to think more clearly. I decided that it would be best to talk to Prince in my office in the morning. I hung up and fell probably into a deep slumber.

The next morning, true to his promise, Prince called me and asked me to meet him at Farmer’s Market, a well-known fruit and vegetable mart where meals are served and gifts may be purchased. Who but Prince would think of such an unusual meeting place, I thought.

I arrived at our destination a little early. There was no sign of prints anywhere. After making a few phone calls, I was advised by people who didn’t know Prince very well to go back to work. This is what I did.

I set down at my desk and frustration wondering what to do and if this was all a joke. The ringing of my phone interrupted my concentration and I answered it impatiently. “Hi! I’m down here at Farmer’s Market waiting for you,” Prince exclaimed. “Hurry up; someone’s going to stab me in this phone booth if you don’t.” I decided to try again and speed down the street hoping to find him this time. If not, or one-year friendship will be at an end.

I stand out on the street corner searching high and low for a short, green-eyed teenager with an Afro. No one fits the description. Oh, well, he’s playing tricks again, I thought resignedly. Maybe I should go back to work. Then, for the second time that day my busy thoughts were interrupted—not via telephone since I’m outside, but by hands clasping tightly around my vocal chords. It was impossible to scream to the amazed onlookers so I whirled around and a mischievous impish young man with sparkling green eyes lets go of my throat and squeals, “I gotcha.”

Prince spent the next few minutes getting the bawling out of his life while a gas station attendant nods approvingly. After that with that winning smile he says, “Come on, let’s walk around and talk.”

It isn’t easy to interview someone walking around with a tape recorder through aisles packed with tourists, but at Right On! we learned long ago to get our stories the best way we can. Like my original interview with Prince in the January issue, it was conducted in a very unorthodox manner with him asking me just as many questions as I asked him. Thank goodness he’s becoming more talkative and gives me more than one-word answers.

The first piece of good news Prince laid on me was that his new album would be in the record stores by the time you read this and the single is called “I Wanna Be A Lover.” “You should have brought me a tape so that I could hear it,” I tell him. “I have one right here.” He pulls out an imaginary tape from his pocket. As he does so I take a real good look at him. He’s so different now, I never would have known him. Dressed in a pair of torn red satin shorts with a white tie-up shirt and suspenders, a pair of leg warmers and cowboy boots complete his unusual costume. Gone was his gorgeous Afro and in place was a new image. He’s not pretty anymore—he’s very handsome. His many fans would readily attest to that.

“Where were you earlier?” I asked him.

“I was walking around. I came here yesterday.”

“Are you ever going to move to California?”

He shakes his head no. “But I do like it a little better here than before.”

Have you experienced the loss of privacy at this point in your career?”

“Not that many people know who I am.” He considers and continues, “Well, I suppose they do but I don’t come out outside much so I don’t see too many people.”

“Have you gotten a stage act ready yet?”

“It’s ready but I won’t say what it’s like!”

Suddenly my calmness  deserts me and I speak to him sharply, “Why not? Why do you constantly put me through all these changes about your life?”

“Shh.” He puts his finger over his lips and look around at a casual group of people who have joined us on a bench. They probably weren’t even listening but Prince never take chances.

“OK,” I say, lowering my voice two octaves. “Why?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t be surprised when you see it.”

“If I guarantee you that I’ll be surprised, will you. . .”

“You’d say, oh, I knew that was coming the same way you would if I told you the end of the movie.”

“Why are you so mysterious?” I asked.

“I’m not mysterious. You’d like me to tell you the end of the movie?”

“If I were curious I would.”

Prince picks up my glasses, studies me intensely and remarks, “Have you always worn glasses?”

Refusing to be sidetracked, I continue, “is this a publicity gimmick you planned in advance. . . Your mysterious, I mean.”

Prince looks exasperated and says in a controlled voice, “I am not mysterious.”<

“I never read any articles on you.”

“You know I don’t like to do interviews.”

“But you have to so that people will know you who you are.”

“Why do they have to know who I am?”

“So that they will want to buy your records.”

“Why wouldn’t they buy them anyway; they did last time!”

“People like to have the inside scoop on the artists.”

“But they bought my records last time and I didn’t do a lot of interviews,” he persists naively.

I explain how important publicity is. Even Teddy Pendergrass is aware of its importance.

“How can we continue to publicize you if we don’t know where you are?” I shied him, changing my tactics.

“I thought you knew. . . Minneapolis. It’s small enough. You could find me.”

“I don’t even know your real name,” I remind him.

Laughing, he replies, this is my real name, Prince.”

“You don’t have a last name.”

“I do but it’s sooo ugly. It’s hard to remember and . . . well I’m not going to say it’s ugly but it’s long.”

“When did you stop using it?”

“When I couldn’t think of how to write it. That’s when I was younger.” He changes the subject this time. “Look,” he commands, showing me a great big hole in his satin shorts. It’s as if he’s a little kid pointing out his crime. “My manager’s cat attacked me. I gave him some chili and he got sick.”

“Why did you do that?” “He kept begging for it so I gave him a whole bowlful. This morning he attacked me.”

“Well, the cat probably had indigestion. Shame on you.”

“Guess what? This time my album cover as a photo of me on it.”

“That’s great!”

“Unfortunately.”

“Why are you so uninterested in attention and recognition?” I wonder.

“Would you like to have attention and recognition?”

“I’m not in your position so the question is irrelevant. I would like to point out though that our readers really like you.”

“I like them too so then I should give you more pictures and stories, shouldn’t I? But wouldn’t we run out of things to write about?”

“Let me worry about that. There are still things about Jacksons that the public doesn’t know.”

Don’t people get sick of reading about the same people all the time?”

Rather than wade in water over my head, I change the subject once again. It’s hard to keep Prince on one subject because he’s taking advantage of the opportunity to tease me and play jokes. He’s a kid, a darling little elf that you’d like to take home.

“What do you expect to get out of being a recording artist?”

“That’s a deep question.” Silence. “Well, it’s because it’s what I do best. It’s a job. I can’t pump gas or nuthin’ like that.”

“You didn’t have to be a recording artist you could have been such a position. It took initiative for you to land at a wreck A record company.”

“Well, when I got bored, I changed careers. I got tired of playing in a band. Besides, I didn’t find a record company, the record company phone me. Remember?”

“This must’ve been a goal for you to strive for,” I insist.

“Goal?” He repeated the word as if he had at never heard it before. “I kind of got into this because. . . You get paid for doing this and if I’m going to have a job, I might as well do something I like. I haven’t set any long-range goals for myself because I’m not ready to yet.”

The Big Ben clock strikes on the half hour but Prince and I ignore it as we get deeper and deeper into his philosophy of life revealing his innermost thoughts.

“How do you spend the rest of your time?”

“In the bathtub,” Prince smiled.

“No, you don’t.”

“A lot of it I do,” he says seriously.

I decide two can play his game. So in a straight face I quietly ask him, “Do you put bubbles in the bathtub?”

“Do I put bubbles in the bathtub?” he repeats with little comprehension. Suddenly it dawns on him what I’ve asked and he gives me one of those exasperated Prince looks. He turns his attention to peeling bark off a tree. Having nothing better to do, I try to join him. “I think I’ve started something, “Prince comments. “I’m not peeling the bark off really”; “I don’t have any nails,” I say. “Why don’t you have any nails?” Wonders Prince, “I have some. Are you jealous?”

After I answer some of Prince’s questions about what it’s like to work at a magazine he asks me, “Are you trying to start a romance between Patrice Rushen and me?”

“No. People should learn to read between the lines.”

“Some people think that you were starting a romance but I never did. I knew you wouldn’t—not intentionally. But that’s the reaction people had.”

“What else do you do in your spare time besides sit in your bathtub?”

“I ride my ten speed.”

“Do you have anything else that you’d like to say about your album?”

“This one’s a lot nastier.”

“Do you have any girlfriends at the present time?”

“I had one but she left me. I wrote some songs about it on the album.”

“Prince, I can’t imagine anyone leaving you. Do you know how many young ladies would love to fill her shoes?”

“That’s why she left me. Am I really that popular?”

“Yes, you are You’re not taking advantage of the situation, are you?”

“No, How could I? You mean if I went out and bought a used car and use my name?”

Laughing at his jokes are pursued intriguing topic of Prince’s girlfriend. “So she felt your instant stardom was too much to handle?”

“I don’t know, Prince shrugged his shoulders morosely. “There were other reasons too. I wrote about some of them in my songs.”

“Do you feel that it is too difficult to have a girlfriend under the circumstances right now?”

I’ve really only had one. I am not going to say she left me,” he said in thinking it over.

“We had discussions about it. Listen to my songs and you’ll understand.”

Prince went on to say that although he liked having a girlfriend, it’s really not very lonely because he has a pet to share his bachelors hideaway.

“What do you have for a pet?” I wanted darker curiously. Prince never had seemed like the type who even want one.

“I won’t tell you because you’ll just say I’m strange.”

I won’t say you’re strange. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be mean to you. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings before,” I apologize.

Prince watches me very thoughtfully for a few minutes and says, “I’m sorry I scared you by grabbing you by your throat.”

“Now, let’s see.” I close my eyes and I try to imagine what that Prince bought. “I know it’s not a cat or a dog. . .”

“It’s both,” he says abruptly with a straight face.

“What do you mean, it’s both?”

“I crossbred ’em. It’s a dog and a cat. The face looks like both animals. It’s black,” Prince joked. “What made you cross breed them?” I asked, playing along.

“There are some things I don’t like about cats and somethings I don’t like about dogs, so I got some of both. It made some of the bad things go away with a little prayer, of course.”<

Prince’s sense of logic can’t be beat. It can’t be understood either, so I swiftly change the subject to a safer topic. “Would you like to become rich someday soon?”

“Who wants to be rich? “He asks scornfully. “That only means more problems. I’m not rich and I don’t want to be. I learned how to drive, but I don’t have a car,” he illustrates his point. “I like my bike better.”

“Did you really hitchhike to this meeting place?” I ask in an attempt to find out exactly how he got to his destination without accepting a ride from a friend and without driving a car.

“Yeah. It only took 45 minutes. That was fast. What’s wrong with hitchhiking anyway? You must come from a rich family. I didn’t. I ran away when I was twelve. I went to my father’s house since he wasn’t living with us at the time. Then I ran away from him a year later. Guess how many times I’ve change addresses. Twenty-two times!” he exclaims proudly

My face colored with embarrassment as I realized what a fuss I had made over his hitchhiking earlier. My concern for his well-being and safety had fallen on deaf ears. “Well, if you’ve done all that, you must have laughed when I was worried about your hitchhiking.”

“Not out loud, I didn’t. I was respectful. Don’t worry: it’s not my time to die.”

“When did you decide to stop running away and stay put?”

“I haven’t yet. I told you I’ve moved three times since last year. It makes me feel older when I run away, like I’m achieving something.”

“I remember last time you told me your favorite food was Bubble Yum. Is that still true?”

“Yes. Bubble Yum is food. It’s nutritional. It strengthens the muscles. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way, have you? Not only that, chewing Bubble Yum is exercise. I also like Virgin Pina Coladas (a coconut fruit drink without the rum).”

Well, Prince, it’s time for me to go back to work so I’ll say goodbye for now.”

“No, I don’t go. I’ll buy you a banana.”

“No, thank you.”

“How a bout a dress?” He looks around at the store surrounding us and points out a shop. “Here’s a place.”<

“No thanks. . . . See you later.”

Prince and I part ways as the readers of this conversation probably wonder what’s wrong with both of us. I’m turning down a free gift from the famous celebrity and he’s wondering off to hitchhike back to his secret destination. You know what’s wrong with us? We are both individuals.

PrinceRightOn600_thumb[22]

Prince Debuts At The Roxy

November 29, 1979

Los Angeles Times

Prince Debuts At The Roxy

by Don Snowden

It must be a daunting prospect for anyone to make his or her performing debut, save for a couple of hometown Minneapolis tuneups, before an industry-heavy crowd at the Roxy. That was the situation confronting Prince Wednesday [1] night.

Prince, 19, is something of a wunderkind who produced, arranged, and composed all the material and played all the instruments on his two Warner Bros. albums. His vinyl output, somewhat like Stevie Wonder‘s, is aimed squarely at the black-pop mainstream and crossover audiences but his live show is heavily influenced by hard-rock flash.

The result is a bizarre combination of musical and visual elements. Guitarist [Dez] Dickerson (black leather jacket and leopardskin pants) and bassist Andre Cymone (legs encased in plastic wrap) both look more punk than funk. Prince largely sticks to guitar and throws enough pelvic grinds and phallic guitar poses at the audience to give most obnoxiously macho rock stars a run for their money.

Prince sings in a thin falsetto that recalls Eddie Holman (remember “Hey There, Lonely Girl”?) , but his vocals lack the power to cut through the instrumental attack on the rock-oriented material that comprised half of the hour-long set. The largely black audience responded more favorably to the more restrained, carefully crafted funk exercises like “Sexy Dancer” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” The latter is the nation’s No. 1 soul single this week and also rising fast on the pop charts.

The slack pacing and Prince’s uneasiness as a front man can be chalked up to a simple lack of stage experience, but a more pressing problem is Prince’s attempt to straddle two disparate musical worlds. That’s not necessarily a bad move, but it is a jarring mixture at this point. Prince obviously is a talented new arrival, but he needs to reconcile those two musical instinct if he is to maximize his potential as a live performer.

Comedienne-illusionist Judy Carter successfully kept the capacity crowd off balance and laughing with a combination of unpredictable antics and feminist-slanted raunch that made telling points without sacrificing the humor quotient.

Right On!

January 1979

Right On!

[title unknown]

by Cynthia Horner

Prince is a mystery man. His record company biography is a collection of information similar to a Right On! fact sheet. It simply tells his name (the name he chooses to use), his age, and the fact that he’s the youngest producer in the history of Warner Bros. Records.

When you finally meet him; he’s still a mystery. It’s no wonder that Right On! (one of his favorite magazines) is one of the few publications that’s granted the opportunity to meet him, because those who have, have gone away unsatisfied. Why? Because Prince refuses to talk about himself. Getting answers from him is like trying to pry open a clam.

It’s not that he’s trying to keep himself a mystery, he just doesn’t have much to say. Sometimes it’s because he’s being a tease, and other times because he really doesn’t know what to say.

When I was sitting in a recording studio listening to him play an intricate piece of music on equipment I’ve never even seen before, I was amazed at the talents this eighteen-year-old genius possesses. His finesse on these instruments is better than musicians twice his age. Sunglasses temporarily hide his resemblance to one of the Sylvers, but outside in the bright sunlight, your struck by his handsome looks, his wistful, longing expression, and his glorious head of hair. Surprisingly, this strong masculine figure is really short—no more than about 5’2″ probably.

Prince’s home is in Minneapolis, Minn., a city, not typically known for producing music giants the way California and New York churn them out. His musical background consists of pianoplaying father (the person who insisted his first name be Prince) and a mother who sings. No, he didn’t grow up taking music lessons. “I took one piano lesson and one guitar lesson,” he recalls. “I didn’t learn anything. I taught myself.”

Thinking back, he laughs for a second and reveals a tiny part of his nature. “I’m stubborn,” he said, his brown eyes boring right through me. “I took a few music classes in school but mainly, I worked on my own.”

As the amazing success story unfolds I find it necessary to tell you that Prince not only wrote, composed, arranged, and produced all the tunes on his debut album, For You, but he also played all the instruments. Funny that he never had anybody teach him how to use any of them. When questioned about the amount of instruments he plays, he shrugs nonchalantly and says, “I don’t know, I never counted. I am learning to play the flute, though,” he offered.

A teenager’s deep immersion into the recording business is indeed rare. While other young men are exploring the wonder of the opposite sex or trying to prepare themselves for a career, Prince was creating an album which was so exciting, that it immediately drew interest from multiple record companies. The fact that his parents aren’t musical giants on a level of Maurice White or a Stevie Wonder makes it even more of a phenomenon. His personal manager Owen Husney, the person Prince turns to the most, explains.

“Prince is from a regular family, depending on how you define ‘regular,’ Compared to having been born in a Maurice White family, yes. But I think that the best thing Prince had was that he knew how to work with the right people intuitively in making the kinds of decisions that furthered him. This know-how helps him get to the right places at the right time.’’

Besides being at the right place at the right time, Prince’s self-confidence (even though outwardly he appears to be very withdrawn and reticent)  has taken him to unbelievable heights. After all, how many musicians would be bold enough to produce their very first album?

As Prince sees it, “I thought I knew my material better than any other producer and it seemed like I was best suited for the job,”

Obviously, Warner Bros. agreed since there was no hesitation in allowing this Gemini to produce his package the way he saw fit. In fact, his disco tune “Soft And Wet” which incidentally, is one of the tunes he sent to the record companies on demo tapes, is rapidly climbing record charts as well as being played constantly. How does he feel about it?

“It doesn’t seem like me,” Prince admitted, moistening his lips. Without meaning to, he does it very sensually. “Mainly because where I live is kind of isolated from the musical scene in itself. I can only tell what’s going on from reading magazines. When I hear ’Soft And Wet’ on the radio, it seems like someone else is singing.”

I’m inclined to agree because even though Prince, the singer, belts out his tune in a very high falsetto tone, his speaking voice is low and deep.

On a not-so-serious side, I ask Prince what are his interests besides music? Not a bit hesitantly, he replies, “Women, all kinds.” When prodded, he elaborates, “I like the ones with nice personalities.”

“Do you get out much?”

“No. Not really.”

“What age range of young ladies do you like?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

What are some of his “favorites”? He ponders but can’t think of any special activities or movies.

No favorite musicians either because as he puts it, “I haven’t had a lot of time to develop a favorite artist. I try not to listen to too many people. It’s distracting.”

Spoken like a dedicated musician.

“What kinds of clothes do you like to wear?”

“I hate clothes.”

Then you Probably seldom shop.”

“Well, no, not really, somebody goes for me.”

He looks down at his slacks and his nearly open-to-the-navel shirt over which a scarf rests fashionably.

“And foods?”

“Mashed yeast,” he says seriously, with eyes sparkling in humor. “I don’t know,” he laughs.”

“You just like to play around. Now tell me some of your favorite foods.”

“Bubble yum.”

“Okay, you win,” I tell him. “Tell me what your favorite subjects were in school besides music and I’ll stop.”

“Dismissal,” he says. “I didn’t like school or sports. Only when I was younger.”

Has success changed the Minneapolis boy wonder?

He shakes his head no. “But it changes everybody else,” ,he observed. “How they treat you. It’s not bad though,” he screws up his brow trying to figure out how to explain the phoniness of people involved with show business. “I don’t dislike it yet. The only thing I have disliked is the late hours. Not that I like to go to bed early, it’s just that when I’m working, it gets pretty weird.”

When told he’s becoming a sex symbol probably faster than he’s becoming a respected musician, his eyes naively widen in amazement. He’s not sure how he feels about it but he does know he won’t be getting married soon. When? “By the time I’m ready to get married, there won’t be marriage,” he said philosophically. “Probably in the year 2066.

“I wouldn’t mind having a child though, a test tube baby,” he said looking at me through those , that could turn a body to jelly.
“And I just want to say one last thing,“ added, taking over the tape recorder ” I really want to thank everybody for buying my album.”

After all, it was written for you!

Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

January 8, 1979 (Monday)

The Minneapolis Star

Prince’s 1st Concert Is Energetic, Sexy

by Jon Bream

He had the opportunity to play his first concert in New York’s prestigious, 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. But instead, Prince, the teen-aged, one-man-band recording star, chose to debut at the Capri Theater, an obscure movie house in his hometown of Minneapolis.

Backed by five other young, local musicians, Prince gave an encouraging debut performance Friday before about 300 persons.

Jive-talking emcee Carl Ray of KUXL introduced the 19-year-old prodigy – who had produced, composed, arranged and played all the instruments on his first album “For You” – as the next Stevie Wonder. That comparison may have been a bit too lofty and presumptuous. But, in many ways, Prince (who was named after his father‘s stage name) lived up to his regal name.

He strutted across the stage with grand Mick Jagger-like moves and gestures. He was cool, he was cocky and he was sexy. Prince is a real showman. He reached out to the audience, and the fans, especially the teen-aged girls, embraced him.

His one-hour show sounded quite different from “For You,” which is dominated by falsetto singing and smooth, soulful sounds. Onstage, Prince and his band tore into an uproarious, hard-funk sound.

At times, it sounded like kind of a youthful if not immature mixture of the Isley Brothers (when they had Jimi Hendrix as their guitarist) and Sly Stone. Bassist Andre Anderson and guitarist Dez Dickerson often relied on flashy pyrotechnics and overzealous showmanship. Yet, what the players lacked in sophistication, polish and experience, they made up for with refreshing energy and emotion.

By contrast, Prince’s singing was more thoroughly professional and quite convincing. He demonstrated a fascinating, female-sounding falsetto with uncommon range. Unfortunately, several times his voice (which recalled Smokey Robinson’s) was swallowed by the feedback and clutter of the inferior sound system. Even the pretty, acoustic ballad, “So Blue,” was marred by an annoying buzz in the sound system.

Despite delays for technical problems, the pacing of the show was effective. Prince, who played several different instruments during the concert, opened with the soft, catchy title song from his album. He then moved into a jazz-rock-funk instrumental and his dance-oriented single “Soft and Wet.” A couple of new, hard-funk tunes were sandwiched around the acoustic number. Then the program closed with a trio of tunes dominated by loud instrumental work.

The highlight was the finale, “Just As Long As We’re Together,” Prince’s contagious, new single that should appeal to soul, pop and disco audience alike.

As a whole, Prince’s performance clearly indicated he has extraordinary talent. Combined with careful direction, time, experience and refinement, that should spell a royal future for Prince.

The_Minneapolis_Star_Mon__Jan_8__1979_ (1)

Our Teen-Age Virtuoso Is Home To Play At Last

January 5, 1979 (Friday)

The Minneapolis Star

Our Teen-Age Virtuoso Is Home To Play At Last

by Jon Bream

Few people had ever seen the kid perform. But everybody in the local music community was talking about him.

“Hey, have you heard those tapes by that Minneapolis teenager who played all the instruments himself?”

Well, several major record companies heard the tapes and began courting the kid, known as Prince.

Warner Brothers Records signed him in 1977 to a reported three-album, six-figure deal and let him produce, arrange, compose and play all the instruments on his debut record, “For You,” which was released last spring.

Now, almost three years after Prince Nelson began creating a buzz, the local music community and Warner Brothers bigwigs finally will get a chance to see him perform. The extraordinary one-man-band will take the stage as a mere bandleader tonight and tomorrow at the Capri Theatre, 2027 W. Broadway.

“I’m nervous,” Prince said with a sheepish smile. “I’ll be terrified, because it’s gonna take a while to block out the fact there are people out there. I find it extremely hard to perform for people.”

“I think I found it hard to sing and play in front of my band at first,” said the 19-year-old, who has not performed publicly since he left a high school dance-band three years ago. “But now that I got to know them better, it’s really easy now and we all bounce off each other as far as energy goes. I think before I can bounce off the crowd it will take a few songs.”

Prince paused and looked down, displaying the reserve that has, in the past, led him to shun interviews and public appearances. He talks slowly, without a great command of the language. He stops in mid-thought, then suddenly, his big brown eyes peek out under the bill of his cap and he continues in soft-spoken monotone.

“I’m really free and open once I get to know a person. But when I first encounter something, I’m a little laid back and cautious. People constantly call me shy. I don’t feel shy, but I guess I sometimes come off that way to people. Everybody at Warner Brothers has a big impression I’m really quiet. If he doesn’t talk, he probably won’t dance or sing too much. I have to put to rest all those accusations.”

Making the transition from a one-man band to a frontman was difficult at first, but Prince says he’s handing it. “It’s complicated at times,“ he said last week in an interview at the west Minneapolis home where his group rehearses. “It’s fun when you hear it [his music] all come back with someone else’s interpretation. Deep down, I can tell it’s different, but sometimes on the surface it’s better. It’s not just me doing everything, trying to keep my energy level up at all times.”

Onstage, Prince will play different instruments on different songs. He has been working out the arrangements for the past several weeks with the five members of his band.

Like their leader, the other members of the band are young, unknown Minneapolis musicians, some of whom play more than one instruments. The oldest is 23.

Prince spent about four months auditioning local musicians for his group. He was determined to limit his search to local players because he feels there is “a lot of unknown talent here.”

However, he said he feels the local music climate stifles musicians. “There is not a lot of incentive here like there is in Los Angeles,” Prince said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m doing the concert [which is a benefit for the Capri, whose owner hopes to make it into a club]. There could be more clubs and more [variety to] radio stations here.”

Nevertheless, Prince appreciates the quiet of the Twin Cities and goes out of town for excitement. He’s kind of a loner and homebody who prefers to record in his studio and experiment with the couple of dozen instruments he plays.

When he was 5, Prince, the son of a show business couple, composed his first song using two rocks. He says he graduated to bigger rocks and bricks before his writing began to improve and he took up the piano at age 7.

He had one lesson. He never learned how to read or write music, but that didn’t deter his curiosity about instruments. When he was 13, he picked up the guitar. A year later, he began playing drums. The bass, organ, clavinet and an arsenal of synthesizers soon followed.

During those formative years, Prince preferred to make music, rather than listen to it. He stayed at home and learned his instruments. Thus, his childhood was rather introverted.

“I missed out on a lot,” he reflected, “but I don’t regret it. I missed out on socializing. But I get high off playing my music or going to a movie alone. I used to like to play sports, but I had to quit that. I used to want to go to college. I certainly don’t have time for that. At one time, I wanted to get married and I don’t have time for that. I wanted kids, too. But I don’t have time for that, either. I think the things I missed out on, my mind has changed about them. I think I’ve done what I wanted to do in life. In teen-age life.”

Indeed, at 18, Prince became the youngest person ever to produce an album for Warner Brothers.

He spent five months holed up in ritzy recording studios in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Sly Stone and members of Santana stopped by and offered encouragement. Prince was honored, but he already had enough confidence, even though his one-man project ran way behind schedule.

The results have been pleasing, he reports. “For You” entered the top-200 album charts and also scored on the soul and disco charts. His single, “Soft and Wet,” was well received in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston and the Carolinas.

To help promote his album, Prince attended autograph parties in some of those areas. “It was weird,” he recalled. “It was mostly kids from 11 to 20. They were relating to me being so young. There’s been ads in the teen magazines and my age has really come up.”

“The kids would ask me if my real name is Prince, what “Soft and Wet” means, and did I really play all those instruments myself.”

At a recent autograph party and disco dance in North Carolina, however, Prince didn’t have much of a chance to talk to his fans. He said about 3,000 kids showed up and after about 20 minutes, the crowd rushed the stage. Amid the hysteria, Prince departed and Warner Brothers representatives just passed out posters of him.

Back home, the budding recording star is removed from that kind of commotion. He doesn’t have to listen to Warner Brothers’ overblown build-up, look at record-store posters or read the write-ups in teen magazines and black publications.

“I try not to listen to that,” Prince said. “People expect you to be an egomaniac because of who you are. The way I am now, I was always. I suppose if I lived in California and rode in limos and had people waiting on me hand and foot, I could change. I’m not into all that.”

Although he may be removed from the west coast record business mania, Prince is not without his pressures in Minneapolis. He recently parted with his manager, Owen Husney, who had been his mentor and benefactor for more than two years. Husney declined to comment but Prince said the split was for personal reasons. The musician said he has arranged to “take care” of his business affairs.

Prince’s booking agency is setting up a brief concert tour this winter and spring. Agents for such performers as Ashford & Simpson, Santana and Chaka Khan have expressed interest in having Prince appear as their opening act.

After his tour, Prince expects to return to the studio to record his second one-man album. He hopes the disk will be an improvement over “For You,” but he doesn’t feel pressured.

He often thinks big, but he speaks with a soft-spoken confidence.

“I do what I want to do,” he said, “otherwise, this business will kill you. It [success] will happen if it’s supposed to. I don’t worry about it too much. What it all boils down to is nothing means nothing except love. As long as I got that, I don’t need money. If I went broke, it wouldn’t faze me. Love and music. As long as I got that, everything’s cool. Everything.”

The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

January 19, 1979 (Friday)

Twin Cities Reader

The Power And The Glory, The Minneapolis Story

by Martin Keller

When local disc jockey Kyle Ray introduced Prince’s debut concert at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis earlier this month, he hallelujahed in the tradition of Muhammad Ali: “The power and the glory, the Minneapolis story—PRINCE.”

He wasn’t just fanning the audience. At 18, this young black wizard from the Twin Cities plays countless instruments, and wrote, arranged, produced, played and sang everything on his first album. He is indeed powerful.

Another new album has been written, and is ready for production sometime this winter, and when a tour that Warner Brothers is preparing for him commences, Prince will stand realistically on glory’s doorstep.

His prodigious talents drew four Warner Brothers executives from California to his premier engagement here. Coming all the way from the sunny west coast to the frozen, below zero confines of Minnesota, the record moguls reportedly left the Twin Cities satisfied that their “client” could perform well with a band and entertain with a great degree of professionalism. They left convinced, in other words, that Prince is going to be a star.

Sitting quietly at a friend’s house before a practice session with his new band, Prince quickly dismissed any talk of stardom and the particulars that accompany it.

“I don’t think about it,” he said in a low voice which sometimes is almost a whisper. “It’s all just part of the dream factory. If it happens, it happens. It’s best not to even worry about that, ’cuz if you strive for it and don’t get it, you’ll be disappointed and feel like a failure.”

Even with that kind of mature realism working in his favor, though, Prince is already conscious of the effect he might have once he begins the rounds as a full-time performer. Dressed like Jimi Hendrix on opening night, and wearing his hair in falling braids for the interview, it was hard not to think of him as another Stevie Wonder.

He admitted, somewhat unabashedly, that he would like “to appeal to as many people as possible and keep them on his side.” He may not be thinking about stardom, but his strategy is geared toward that end.

Prince is the sixth youngest in a family of ten, mother and father included. His father plays piano and writes music, and at one time performed in a swing band.

“My dad called my piano playing ‘banging,’ and didn’t pay much attention to it. I guess I was seven then. I never really listened to music, either, and I still don’t very much. There’s never nothin’ I can get into. If I listen to a record, I head something that I’d like to do differently, and I become too critical of it. You shouldn’t be that way, ‘cuz the group took their time and effort and worked on it. I’d rather just do my own thing.”

Doing what pleased him, Prince picked up instrument after instrument and mastered them all. His high school days at Minneapolis Central thoroughly bored him, and once his music teachers discovered they had a monster talent on their hands, they left him completely alone.

“They’d just lock me in a room, once they understood what I was doing. I skipped school a lot, but I graduated early; dismissal was my favorite time of day. I believe in teachers, but not for me. Anything creative I don’t think can be taught, otherwise you get somebody else’s style; it’s not yours, it’s theirs.”

Undoubtedly, this philosophy propelled Prince in the recording studio at Sound 80 where he began work on his debut record, For You. He literally took charge of the whole process. Calling him self-reliant is a gross understatement.

The demo tapes from For You were taken to a number of record companies before Warner Brothers agreed to give Prince what he wanted: a sizable advance and full control of the production, playing, singing, and arrangement on the LP.

“I’ve written 20 songs for the next album, and I think Warners is going to let me handle all of the record again. I didn’t have any particular thing I was trying to accomplish on the first record—I was just putting down what I heard in my head. I wouldn’t say the second one will be like the first, but it’ll sound like me,” Prince said, toying with a tambourine.

His debut concerts surprised many. He and his five piece band chose to play a heavy metallic series of songs mixed in with the “soft and wet” textures that color the disco and funk pieces on For You.

“I like to play a lot of guitar. That heavy sound goes better in concert than it does on record. I guess synthesizer is my favorite instrument now, and that’s part of the reason for two keyboard players. I really like working with this band, and I’m gonna do an album with them where everyone writes and I’m just there playing with them. They’re really great individually as well as collectively.”

Despite Warner Brothers’ attempt to solicit L.A. musicians, Prince finally settled on Minnesota talent. The record company flew him out to Los Angeles with Bobby Z., a drummer from Minneapolis, and a local bass guitarist Andre, a longtime friend and a great showman himself. The three of them spent a couple of tedious days auditioning players.

Gail Chapman, keyboard player in the band, moved from Duluth where she had played with “eight commercial-sounding groups,” and met a cousin of Prince’s while living on the northside. She jammed with Prince, and eventually was invited to join. “This whole band was formed from jamming,” Bobby noted.

Dez Dickerson got his job after playing just 15 minutes with Prince, while the other keyboard player, Matt Fink, persistently called Prince’s former management company six months before the band even formed.

Prince’s quiet manner may be the ideal stance in the face of the towering music industry, where talent is often less important than the machinations of the biz.

“The music end of my life I’ll probably always do, but not the business end,” said Prince softly. “I hate plane rides, too. I’d rather stay at home and rehearse, or play in the studio by myself. I like the quiet here in Minneapolis, and nobody bothers me; I’ll always keep a place here.”

The multi-talented prodigy, who once dreamed of becoming a cowboy or a fireman, lives alone with a couple of pet alligators, and chooses not to make the scene very much. He’s still under age for most bars in this state.

“I used to hang out at the Infinity (a St. Louis Park disco which recently closed) but I’d rather hear loud, live music if I go out at all. Actually, I spend a lot of time in the bathtub thinking. Music and playing is almost like breathing for me,” he said shyly in the low voice that belies his performing falsetto.

Prince plans to play here again soon, once the tour is set. “But before I can do that, I have to go to New York and L.A. and that means more plane rides,” he winced. Since his career might rest on the wings of those planes, I urged him to get used to it. “Well, I may not stay in music, you know. If I get bored, I may become an artist, a painter—I do that too. Or I might become a janitor or something else,” he shrugged.

Given Prince’s age and his remarkable abilities, it’s safer to assume that “the Minneapolis story” will spend more time in the air and on the airways than he will mopping up.”

1978_Darlene_Pfister