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!

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.”

Prince

May/June 1978

The Insider

Prince [title possibly incomplete or incorrect]

by Jeff Schneider

Prince believes in magic the kind you work at because it’s laying there inside you like a wand without an arm to wave it – and he’s been busy practicing his magic since he was seven, banging out Jazz and Blues songs on the piano. He was raised in South Minneapolis with his three brothers and four sisters. His dad, billed as Roger Prince, was a swing-band leader. His mother worked on and off as the band’s lead singer. When he was in the seventh grade at Bryant Junior High he joined a local dance band called Grand Central. Around the time he and the rest of the members were ready for a change of schools (Central High) they changed the band’s name to Shampayne. By the time Prince was 13 he was comfortable with a bass or a lead guitar. A year later he began working on the drums with a Magnus Chord Organ, a clavinet, and an array of synthesizers following the beat of his magic in the making. A formal musical education didn’t have much influence in that magic. Prince says as he recalls his school days, “I took one piano and two guitar lessons while I was in school. I wasn’t really a model student. I didn’t want to play the funky stuff music teachers used and I couldn’t read music. It would always end up that the teacher would go through his thing, and I’d end up doing mine. Eventually they just gave me an A and sent me on my way.”

“By the time I was a sophomore, school had gotten to be a real drag. I was getting further and further into making music. The more I found myself entertaining at local gigs during the night, the more I hated the thought of going to school in the morning.”

“But later on, there I was seventeen, a graduate and still frustrated. I felt that I had to keep going after the music but didn’t know how long I’d be able to do it and eat too. I did know that I wanted something more than nine to five.”

Frustration and the going-nowhere-in-a-hurry blues trapped Prince in a case of the ’Midwest Lethargism’ syndrome. He was struck with the affliction’s common symptoms. First you begin viewing the scene as lethargic. This lethargy soon spreads to your scene until you just know that the only way anything’s gonna pop is if you get the hell out to where the action is. Destination choice is another predetermined characteristic of the affliction. You only see apples or oranges in your dreams. Prince chose the Big Apple because an older sister, Sharon, lived there.

“The only way I can relate to that period, is that it was part of a search,” Prince admits.

“While I was living with Sharon I got hooked up with a woman producer who was always busy pitching her own angles. She was only looking at me as a singer, the kind that opts for the silk capes, high heeled shoes and white Cadillacs. You know, somebody who dresses and sings the same part – a nice dresser and a sweet singer. I tried to explain that even though I didn’t have the key to the recording industry, that I knew myself and that I knew for sure what I would and wouldn’t do for that Key. I told her I never considered myself a singer. I saw myself as an instrumentalist who started singing out of necessity. I don’t think I ever got through, but I tried explaining, that to me, my voice is just like one of the instruments I play. It’s just one thing I do.”

Two years ago Prince was just another 16-year-old musician with a band. The drummer’s mother managed it, arranging as many school gigs and club appearances as she could. Today he’s an 18-year-old studio soloist who just may be sitting on the largest debut recording offer ever to be approved by Warner Brothers Records. Direction from Prince’s new manager, Owen Husney, a three-song demo tape and an awe-inspiring amount of talent landed a bottom line that reputedly ran into six figures.

The debut LP entitled Prince-For You established enough firsts in its own right to humble a limo-load of market-proven recording artists. “For You” is the first debut album ever to be completely controlled by the artist and his management. Prince was granted control of production, performance, composition and arrangement. On the LP, the Minnesota artist practiced what the contract preached. He arranged the material which — with the exception of “Soft and Wet” – he had created. In Warner Brothers’ Record Plant located in Sausalito, California this 18-year-old, 16-track neophyte stepped in and put down nine solid tunes — single handed. A previous studio merger had yielded the demo which had stimulated his lenient agreement. This time a developed conception emerged. Nine major league tunes — with lush instrumentation and enough multitrack voice dubbing to prompt the Divine Miss M into polishing her bugle.

Ironically. while Prince was in New York unsuccessfully explaining the magic he wanted to come across in a production to an unyielding producer, some of that same magic he’d left behind in Minneapolis was casting spells and lighting up wands on its own.

Before his eastern migration, Prince had gotten a call from Chris Moon, the owner of Moon Sound Inc., a recording studio in South Minneapolis. Moon had remembered the black dude on piano who had played with Shampayne in a previous session. Now he had a demo tape that needed a solid piano track tor icing. He knew Prince could easily handle the job and that he’d get an economical billing to boot.

After the pianist had added the keyboards he picked up a bass and suggested that it would also be an asset to the tape’s sound. Moon agreed, but added that he hadn’t planned on paying for a bass player too. While a mesmerized Moon sat behind the control panel, the kid from Shampayne laid down a tight bass line. Then he put the bass aside and pounded out a drum track, added an electric guitar lead line and finished by feeding the studio ’s recorders with multiple backup vocal tracks.

A short while after Moon had edited the tape, he asked the proprietor of The Ad Company at 430 Oak Grove to give it a listen. The agency ’s owner, Owen Husney had been through the corridors of the music industry. He’d done everything from local and national promotion to artist management over the years, and Moon was sure he’d recognize Prince’s unlimited potential when he heard the tape.

“That’s pretty good, who are they?”, was Owen’s initial response. While Moon explained that the “they” being referred to was one, and that the “one” hadn’t any positive commitments for the future, Owen’s eyes grew the size of record discs (color them platinum).

A phone call later and Prince was on his way back to the city of lakes; without the company of his silk pitching New York manager . . .

Owen and Prince became fast comrades. As it became apparent to Prince that he’d finally found a manager who would work with him instead of against him, the music began to flow. “I knew whatever had to be done for Prince had to be first class,” Owen stated. “If we went to L.A. or anywhere else to score a recording deal. we weren’t just going to go out there and phone record execs from our hotel room.” “The best support I could offer was to give Prince the confidence he needed to keep on doing it.”

A demo tape was cut at Sound 80 studios. The event, the young artist’s first long-term studio stay, created a bond between man and music-machine that isn’t likely to be broken. “For me, there’s nothing like working in a recording studio. It’s satisfying. It’s like painting. You being with a conception and keep adding instruments and laying tracks down. Soon, it’s like the monitors are canvas. The instruments are colors on a palet, the mikes and board are brushes. I just keep working it until I’ve got the picture or rather the sound that I heard inside my head when it was just an idea.”

Owen admits that Warner Brothers had a slight edge in negotiations due to friendships he had cultivated at the Southern California base. “But we were approached by everybody, and we considered each proposal.” Owen goes on to explain that although A&M and Columbia were more than a little interested in the 18-year-old Minnesota virtuoso, Warner Brothers showed the most positive interest in Prince’s music itself.

“We were wined and dined by a lot of companies, but when everybody else was talking gifts and bonuses, the people at Warner Brothers were actually listening to the demo.”

Owen also recalls an incident in the negotiations during which the duo demanded the unprecedented latitude that the final agreement out lined. “Naturally, their first reaction was sure, doesn’t everybody nowadays want to have complete control?”

After a visit to a studio where Prince displayed his creative expertise first hand, Warner Brothers was convinced. Complete control could be granted on the debut disc. A three-year, three-album contract was signed.

Owen says, “I made a point of not hassling Prince while he was working at the Record Plant. They’d go in at 7:00 P.M. and usually end up staying until sunrise. He kept the pace, five, sometimes six days a week for five months. Periodically he’d give me a tape so I could keep abreast of his progress, but otherwise he handled it himself.”

Currently, Prince is back in the Twin Cities, working on soundproofing his basement so the neighbors aren’t bothered as he jams the night through. He’s not star-struck over the recent airplay he’s been getting all over the country, but confesses that hearing one’s own tunes on the radio is altogether another kind of adventure.

“I was driving down the street in my Datsun the first time I heard it,” he says. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t believe it, it’s simply that my heart dropped to my knees.”

He’s also enthusiastic about taking his show on the road. That is, as soon as he assembles it. “Andre is a musician friend of mine from the days of Shampayne. He’s the only definite member of my touring group so far. Andre is a lot like me; he eats, and sleeps his music and that’s the only kind of people I want with me on that stage. I’m planning to add 6 or 7 people, a couple of keyboardists, a rhythm player and a percussionist. I’m looking for a big stage sound so I’d like to find people who can sing, too. During the performances I guess I’ll play guitar because that will allow me to move. It would be great if I could strap a piano around me too.”

 

Prince: A One-Man Band And A Whole Chorus, Too

April 30, 1978 (Sunday)

Minneapolis Tribune

Prince: A One-Man Band And A Whole Chorus, Too

by Tim Carr

Two summers ago, Chris Moon, the proprietor of Moon Sound Inc., a recording studio in south Minneapolis, had written what he felt was salable original material. He recorded the songs with just an acoustic guitar, as a demonstration tape for his studio, but when he played them back he realized he needed a piano player to “sweeten” them.

Moon had previously recorded tapes by a local group, Champagne, which featured a 16-year-old musician, who not only was good but would play the piano for not too much money. Moon gave the kid a call, and he accepted. After the pianist had laid down the keyboard track, he asked Moon if he wanted some bass on the song.

“Sure, but I don’t want to pay for a bass player”, Moon said.

The kid went into the studio and laid down a perfect bass line…then he put some drums on the tape…added an electric guitar lead line…and finally went in and put down some multiple tracks as a backup singer.

A slightly dazzled Moon edited the material and took the finished tape to his musician-manager friend Owen Husney to see what the thought about it.

“Not bad. Who are they ?” Husney said.

“It’s one 17-year-old kid,” Moon replied.

Maintaining his cool, straightening his tie, and squeaking in a high voice, Husney managed to ask, “Who ?”

“Prince”.

Prince – no mast name, no first name, no ”the ,” just Prince – was born in south Minneapolis on June 7, 1959, the son of a swing-band leader who used the stage name Roger Prince. His mother was the lead singer of the band. At the age of 7, Prince took up the piano.

“Around the time I was 8,” he said in an interview, “I had pretty good idea what the piano was all about.”

“I had one piano lesson and two guitar lessons as a kid. I was a poor student, because when a teacher would be trying to teach me how to play junky stuff I would start playing my own songs. I’d usually get ridiculed for it, but I ended up doing my own thing. I can’t read music. It hasn’t gotten in the way yet. Maybe it will later, but I doubt it.”

While in the seventh grade at Bryant Junior High, Prince joined a local dance band, Grand Central, which he played with until he was 16. (The group changed its name to Champagne when the members moved over to Central High School.) At 13 he had picked up the guitar. At 14 he was practicing daily on a drum kit. The bass followed naturally, as did an assortment of keyboard instruments – first a Magnus Chord Organ, a clavinet, and finally an army of synthesizers.

When Husney first heard the tapes, Prince has moved from Minneapolis to live with his sister in New York. Husney called him there, offered to be his manager and called him back back to Minneapolis to make some professional ‘demo’ tapes at Sound 80 Studios, where he discovered how a fully equipped recording studio worked and had a field day with the studio’s battery of synthesizers. His demo tape was very professional and impressive indeed.

Husney took the tape to the West Coast to peddle it to the major record companies. The Tape sold itself. Husney said every major record company was knocking on his door, wining and dining and offering him bids. “I meant, it was amazing. Herb Alpert (the A of A&M) was calling my office directly.”

Husney and Prince decided to go with Warner Brothers Records, which reportedly offered the now 18-years-old a six-figure contract, a three-record deal and allowed Prince to produce his own debut album. He is the youngest person ever to have produced a Warner Bros. album.

“Prince – For You” is the title of the album. Besides producing the album, he composed and arranged its nine songs and played every instrument and sang all the vocal parts on each song.

On the record, Prince plays the studio as if it were a musical instrument – as much so as any of the 27-or-so instruments he plays on it. Overdubs and multitracks bend together into a shimmering, lushly produced whole. A conglomeration of synthesizers creates the illusion of a full orchestra on some tracks, a horn section on others and a quizzical, simple serpentine organ line on others. There’s a little of everything here, even some blues buried deep down under all the jazz and pop and funk and rock and…

The album opens with Prince singing against 45 other vocal tapes of himself – a Niagara of voices cascading and intertwining over and around each other in a dreamy, romantic melody. It closes with a hard-rocking fireball titled “I’m Yours ,” wherein Prince shows that his guitar playing need not cower beneath his synthesizers. Three clean lead guitar lines a la Carlos Santana, all distinct and all cooking, wind around each other, jump from track to track (he knows how to use the studio) and wind up into a final, fiery fade-out.

And there are seven songs sandwiched between those two, too, varying vastly in mood, instrumental arrangement and musical genre. They are mostly love and lust songs, sung softly and carrying a big beat.

“I wanted to make a different-sounding record,“ Prince said last week while sitting in Husney’s Loring Park office. “We originally planned to use horns, but it’s really hard to sound different if you use the same instruments. By not using horns on this record, I could make an album that would sound different right away. So I crated a different kind of horn section by multi-tracking a synthesizer and some guitar lines.” ”I got hip to polymoogs (polyphonic-two handed-synthesizers) when I was here working at Sound 80. I liked them a lot then. I was trying to get away from using the conventional sound of pianos and clavinets as keyboards, as the main keyboards, so I Thought I would try to use that as the main keyboard on a few songs – and it worked. I think the main reason artists fall when they try to play all of the instruments is because, either they can’t play all the instruments really well – there is usually a flaw somewhere – or they don’t play with the same intensity each track. It’s a hard project to do, but you have to pretend each time that this is going to be your only track and that you’re the only guy who’s going to play that instrument. So every time you go into the recording booth, you have to play like it’s your only shot. If you do that, what you end up with is a whole band that is playing with the same intensity.”

What Prince ended up with was indeed a very intense pop-funk band…er… “I don’t like categories at all,” Prince said, reeling at the mention of a label for his music. “I’m not soul and I’m not jazz, but everyone wants to call me one or the other. The Bee Gees aren’t called soul. They’re pop or something. Whatever it is to whoever is listening to it is what it is. It’s hard to categorize the record, so I try not to use any categories at all. There is not one categorization that all of the tracks can fall into. Some are funk, some hard rock and roll, others like “For You” could be classical, you know ?“

What makes all them “Prince” ?

“It’s hard to say. I guess it’s just the basic sound. It’s hard to classify Earth Wind & Fire, for instance, but you can always tell it’s them when you hear them. It’s not a brand of music, it’s a group sound, identity of their own. If you want EW&F, you just go out and buy them. Maybe my voice, or just my total sound, who knows ? It is my album.”

Now Prince, who says he doesn’t want his real name known “because it’s too hard to remember,” is putting together a band to take with him on a national tour to promote the album.

“So far I only have a bass player, Andre Anderson from Champagne,” Prince said. “I’m going to New York to audition some people. I’m going to have two keyboard players on stage and have a lot of synthesizers. I’m not sure who I’ll have on stage. Right now I have to try to figure out who’s going to fit. I have to try and create a personality group. I’m looking forward to going out on the road ; I like performing.”

Will he bring any horns or woodwinds with him on the road ? “Well, I’m going to pick up a flute pretty soon.”

 

 

Youth Signs 6-Figure Record Contract

September 1, 1977 (Thursday)

St. Paul Dispatch

Youth Signs 6-Figure Record Contract

by Bob Protzman

A just-turned-18-year-old Minneapolis youth has signed a six-figure recording contract with Warner Bros. and is scheduled to begin recording his first album today in Sound 80 studios, Minneapolis.

Known only as Prince, the youth is reputed to have signed one of the largest contracts ever for a new act.

Owen Husney, Prince’s personal manager and president of American Artists, Inc., a management company, said Warner Bros. was selected over two other national recording companies interested in Prince — A&M and Columbia.

Prince plays a number of instruments and sings, but has not been seen in performance in the Twin Cities, the explanation being that his “ambition was to be a national recording star and he did not want to wear out his talent in local clubs.”

Husney, also president of the advertising agency The Ad Co., and a former concert promoter, said he has been working with Prince for about a year.
Husney, Prince and David Rivkin, an engineer with Sound 80, produced the demonstration tape that was used to gain Prince the recording contract.

Rivkin and a Los Angeles recording engineer will work on the album, 90 percent of which will be done by Prince alone, according to Husney.

“He plays all the instruments — drums, bass, lead and rhythm guitar, piano, synthesizers, and percussions. And he sings lead as well as all the backups,” said Husney. Prince also composes and arranges.

Under the agreement with Warner Bros., Prince will be album producer, meaning he will have artistic control, which is rare in the recording industry for a performer so young and new in the business. Also unusual, according to Husney, is the fact that Prince’s contract calls for a guaranteed three albums, when most agreements guarantee only one or two LPs.

No one will reveal Prince’s last name, but Husney said his father was a jazz bandleader who used the stage name Prince Rogers. His mother, said Husney, was a singer. They named their son Prince. According to an article in the Minnesota Daily last April, Prince began playing piano at 6, guitar at 13, bass soon after that, and had mastered drums at about 14.

His music has been described as “sweet, funky, disco soul.”

The first album is scheduled for release next January, said Husney. “After that, we’ll get together a good band of musicians from the Twin Cities and elsewhere and go on the road.”

Do you think Prince will become a star? “I know he will,” shot back Husney. But after a pause, he said, “Maybe I shouldn’t use the word star, but I know Prince is a legitimate talent and he’ll do well.”

St. Paul Dispatch

Prince

April 8, 1977 (Friday)

Minnesota Daily

Prince [title possibly incomplete or incorrect]

by Lisa Hendricksson

The American recording industry isn’t exactly glutted by musicians from Minneapolis. The few who do make it big internationally, like Leo Kottke and Michael Johnson, are firmly embedded in the acoustic folk tradition that defines the Minneapolis music scene.

With the flowering of the sophisticated, well-equipped Sound 80 recording studio, all that may change, however. Acts as diverse as Cat Stevens and KISS have recorded there, and local bands like Lamont Cranston are cutting albums. Clearly, Minneapolis is beginning to break free from its folk-oriented roots.

If he makes it, the most atypical local star to come out of Sound 80 will be a multi-talented [18-year-old] prodigy from North Minneapolis who plays any instrument you hand him, sings with a crystal pure falsetto that would have put the young Michael Jackson to shame, and goes by the name Prince. No last name, and please, no “the” prefix. Just Prince.

If you haven’t heard of him yet, you’re not alone, though you may have danced to rough mixes of his songs (without knowing it) at Scotties. Right now, Prince is probably the best-kept musical secret in Minneapolis, known mainly to local session musicians and recording studio habitués. The reason he’s not already a well-known local performer is simple: ambition. This kid wants to be a major national recording star, and the way to do that is not to wear out your vocal cords at the Tempo night after night. A smart, anxious [18-year-old] isn’t going to sit still for a lecture about paying dues, either. He’s got his program pretty well worked out, and the wheels are in motion. From where he and his manager are sitting, it’s only a matter of time.

Prince is making an obvious effort to hide his impatience the night I visited him during a recording session at Sound 80 a few weeks back. The WAYL [radio] Strings were trying to lay down a not too difficult track that Prince had written, and the 16th notes were coming out like mush. They plugged away for about an hour when Prince very politely told the conductor to change the 16th notes to quarter notes. This done, he slumped down in his seat, looking dissatisfied and slightly annoyed. “We won’t be able to use that. I hate wasting time. I want to hear that song on the radio.”

It’s a little startling, hearing this from a teenager, albeit an extraordinarily talented and self-possessed teenager. But when you begin playing piano at six, guitar at 13, bass soon after, and finally master the drums at 14, your time schedule gets pushed forward a bit.

Prince was spotted playing in a high school band by Chris Moon of Moonsound, another, smaller local recording studio. His excellence was immediately apparent, and Moon began collaborating with him in the studio, putting together tapes. With several songs in the can, Prince headed for New Jersey to find fame and fortune by way of Atlantic Records. The people of Atlantic, though impressed, suggested that his sound was “too Midwestern” — whatever that means. Others, notably Tiffany Entertainment, a company owned by basketball player Earl Monroe, made offers which Prince apparently could refuse, because by winter he returned to Minneapolis.

Things got back on the track in December when Prince’s tapes made such a big impression on former Twin Cities promoter Owen Husney that Husney decided to come out of comfortable ad agency anonymity to manage Prince. Together, they’ve spent the entire winter in Sound 80, polishing the production on the three or four songs they intend to present to all the major labels in [Los Angeles] next week. Husney is confident about Prince’s chances for a contract, citing the capriciousness of the record business as the main roadblock. With typical managerial optimism, he says, “If he isn’t [signed], it’ll be because somebody’s wife burned the eggs that morning.”

How much basis is there for this optimism? A great deal, I think. For one thing, Prince has two valuable gimmicks going for him — his age and his versatility. Not only does he play every instrument on the Sound 80 tapes, he also does all the vocal tracks and has written and arranged all the songs himself. It’s a prodigious feat, made all the more impressive by the fact that he’s self-taught. Although his father was a jazz musician, Prince insists that he didn’t actually teach him anything, nor did they play together very often. He seems to have gotten the ability by osmosis.

Another strong point is the obvious commercial appeal of his sound. It’s sweet, funky disco soul, but I’ll de-emphasize the “disco” because the arrangements are more sophisticated and inventive, less formulaic than the simplistic repetitiveness one associates with disco. His use of a driving synthesizer on one song, “Soft ’n’ Wet” is traceable to Stevie Wonder, and his phrasing derives a little from RufusChaka Khan. If he hasn’t totally transcended his influences, he certainly has assimilated them convincingly.

The development of this pop sound troubles Prince a little. He has spent his adolescence around good musicians and understands the value of respect. Ideally, he says, he would like to record jazz on one label under a pseudonym and the pop stuff on another label.

Finally, there is Prince’s personal appeal. As a performer, he should have little trouble. Not only can he jump from instrument to instrument, but he’s the kind of cute that drives the boppers crazy. He’s not adverse to choreography, but draws the line at spins. “I get nauseous,” he explains.

In an interview situation, he’s quiet, even aloof, with a sly sense of humor and a quick, intelligent smile. You get the feeling that not even at gunpoint would this kid make a fool of himself in public. Before I talked to him, his manager assured me he didn’t use drugs or alcohol and wouldn’t jive with me. I actually believe the former, but not the latter. Jive takes many forms, and this cool [18-year-old] has it down to a subtle art.

After the recording session everyone went out to Perkins for coffee. Tired of having to act twice his age for the elderly WAYL gang, Prince ordered a milk shake and began adding things to it — ketchup, blueberry syrup, honey, steak sauce, coffee, jam, salt and pepper. He ordered the waitress over to the table and handed her the concoction.

Opening his large brown eyes even wider, he said, “I think there’s something wrong with this. It tastes funny.” The worried waitress asked what it was supposed to be and hurried over to the manager, who formally apologized and took it off the bill. Prince brought off the whole scene with a royal aplomb befitting of his name.

What a relief. Earlier in the studio, I was sure he was a clone, constructed in the back rooms of Owen Husney’s ad agency. Prince is a real live kid, packed with talent, but basically normal and mischievous. Besides his music, that was the nicest surprise of the evening.

Larry Falk, 1977 (1)