April 21, 2018 will mark the second anniversary of the death of Prince. It still seems like just the other day. I grew up in Minneapolis in the same era as Prince, yet we never crossed paths at that time. He was Northside and I was Southside. I was into athletics and he was music. We had mutual friends. One of my basketball teammates was “Jellybean Johnson” of The Time. Jellybean’s nickname was Buddy Miles then (another famous drummer) and he was always carrying drumsticks beating on things. When teenaged Prince was playing in clubs with his band. My parents weren’t about that life which meant I wasn’t about that life either. We didn’t cross paths.
My first Prince concert was in Jacksonville, FL and he was opening for Ashford & Simpson. The skinny kid with the big ‘fro and black bikini drawers was singing songs like, “Head,” and “When You Were Mine,” from the “Dirty Mind” album. The title track will always be one of my favorites.
“It doesn’t matter where we are
It doesn’t matter who’s around
It doesn’t matter
I just want to lay ya down”
The next time I saw Prince was at a club in St. Paul, MN called, “The Taste.” For those of you that saw “Purple Rain,” it was the club where Apollonia performed with the group Morris Day put together. Prince was sitting alone at a small table and I did what you’re supposed to do when a man wants to be left alone. I let him be. No asking for autographs or declaring what a fan I was. I gave him his space.
A couple years later, the movie, “Purple Rain” came out. Prince mania started then and never really died. My son was born around that time and he heard Prince in his crib instead of lullaby’s. Two of the singles from the album were #1 hits. The album has sold well over 25 million copies and as of a few years ago was the third best-selling album ever. It was the Number One Soundtrack of all time and certified platinum 13-times! My youngest daughter grew up on Prince as well. It may have confused other drivers to see us rocking out to Prince while stopped at a light. That was just the way it was.
“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain”
The next time I saw him was several years later in Lakeland, FL, I brought someone I was dating, who wanted to walk around the lobby and see who was there rather than watch the show. Then she wanted something to drink… later to eat. I should have known then the relationship wasn’t going to work out. At that concert, Prince performed “Purple Rain” live for the first time in years and but for fortunate timing I might have missed it.
We attended another Prince concert together in Tampa at an arena and I set the ground rules in advance. “I will buy you anything you want to eat or drink before the show starts. If you want something during the show or to go mingle, you’re certainly welcome but I am staying in place and don’t intend to miss a moment of the show.”
I bought my tickets for that show on-line, because I was a member of the NPG Club (New Power Generation), I could buy advance tickets and had excellent seats on the floor, 12 rows from the stage. I was mildly surprised that the majority of fans nearby were white but I knew Prince had an international fan base. It didn’t surprise me when they stood the entire concert, singing along and knowing every word. It did unnerve me when Prince pulled out an obscure song that I, his biggest fan, didn’t know, and they were still standing, singing every word. It was the best concert I attended in my life.
At that time, I was in the novelty merchandising business where Prince affected my life twice. I was in Minneapolis, working at the first Super Bowl held there. A group of us went to a downtown BBQ restaurant which was more like fine dining… but BBQ. The place was owned by Minneapolis Central High School’s former track star Harry Davis who I swear had the largest head I’ve ever seen. I wonder how much faster he could have been if his head was just a bit smaller? Back to Prince, I did what you’re supposed to do when a man is eating food with his friends. I left him alone.
Back in Florida, I worked a small concert in Tampa at the Sun Dome and when we got out (about 1 am) we had to drive to Miami for the Florida Marlins home opener. Spider, Joe, Travers and I piled into my car and I drove. The route took us through Alligator Alley which is the darkest most desolate stretch of Interstate highway I’ve ever encountered. Now and then, someone would wake up and ask if I was okay? I said, “I’m good” and they went back to sleep. It was probably best they slept through, “The Black Album” because they wouldn’t have understood but Prince did what I needed him to do and we got there just fine.
Believe me I have more Prince stories, some not fit to print. I’d really like to hear yours. Please share your Prince story in the comments and pass this along to any true Prince fans you know so they can tell theirs.
“My name is Prince, and I am funky
My name is Prince, the one and only”
R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016)