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)

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

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)