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

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

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)