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Gooding with Prince albums

“The thing with Prince is, he plays his second instruments better than you play your first.” —Jimmy Jam

Pushing boundaries, giving your LIFE to your art, writing hits, combining genres, and putting on a MIND-BLOWING LIVE SHOW, no one got near THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS.

One of my very first records was Prince’s 1999. I had the cassette as a kid and used a little piece of Scotch tape on the edges to record over the dirty parts so my parents wouldn’t hear me listen to him sing graphically about sex. I didn’t care (nor fully understand) what he was talking about. I just knew that his guitar, his voice, the songs, the RHYTHM were all coming from the rock ’n’ soul heavens.

It would be many years until I would finally see him, but that night would live on as one of the best nights of my life. Back in 1999 (you can’t make this up) the band—at that time me, Jesse, and the international man of mystery, Billy Driver— were playing Gus Lucky’s Art bar in Minneapolis for about 22 people. We got done with the show around two a.m. and asked the bar manager where Paisley Park was. He gave us the address and said, “Prince is in town. Could be jamming at his club [attached to his house—uh-huh]. You guys should head over and see what happens. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s really cool.”

We drove out to the barren fields of Minnesota in 10-degree weather. I had fallen asleep in the back of the truck, and all of sudden I heard the band buzzing up front: “There it is! There it is! “

Out in the fields and glowing purple against the powder-white snow—like some futuristic, perfectly designed obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey—was Prince’s recording complex, home, and nightclub. We had arrived at our hallowed ground.

We parked as fast as possible. It was past three a.m. at this point, and we could hear the club rumbling. RUMBLING. It was HIM. He was on stage as we spoke. It was happening. GOOD GOD.

We ran to the doorman outside the club. Everyone else was inside—we were the last ones there. The guard was built like a tank and looked like he could go bear hunting with a switch. He said, “The cover is 19.99, but we aren’t taking anybody else in.” I started rambling that Prince was playing my favorite song—a B-side called She’s Always in My Hair—how we were kids from Kansas that drove out from our show to see this, etc., etc. He said, “Ahhh, just go ahead on in,” and charged us nothing.

We go in and of course had to use the restroom despite DYING to get into the club and see the genius up close. Everything we did we yelled out to one another:

“I’m flushing Prince’s toilets!”

“I’m using Prince’s handsoap!”

“I’m drying my hands on Prince’s towels!”

Freaking stalkers. No wonder the guard was bigger than all three of us put together.

We get to the stage, and though Prince was knee-high to a grasshopper, he might as well have been 10 feet tall. He was immaculate. I heard he had a costume custom tailored for every show and sometimes every song he recorded. He never wore the same thing twice. Just stunning. Every note he sang was perfect (this from a man who can also proficiently play about 30 instruments). When he lit into his guitar solos, I knew that all the years of struggle were worth it ’cause nothing—and I mean NOTHING—can make you feel like pure soul music makes you feel.

Prince had a stainless steel pedal board at his feet (for you non-guitar geeks, a pedal board is full of little boxes that give you weird and wonderful sounds). There were just five buttons and duct tape next to them with his handwriting (yes, I know his handwriting … stalker) that said


He would kick one of these buttons, and underneath the exact spot on the cage he was standing on, he had several amps facing up at him that would click on in different configurations to make the sounds he wanted.

Amps under a caged stage flashing on and off as you kicked a floor full of funky adjectives? ONLY PRINCE.

He was never concerned with how anyone else did things:

Produce your own record at age 19 for a major label and play every single instrument? Fine. No problem. (Only one other person has ever pulled off this feat—Stevie Wonder.)

Give stunning amounts to charity over the years, but no one finds out until you are dead and gone? Of course.

When Prince did 21 nights at the Forum out there, it was because the Forum was in financial trouble. He asked them how many nights they were behind to stay afloat; they said 21, and BOOM.

Tickets for those shows were $25 and $65. He never took advantage of his lifelong audience.

He protected artists’ rights. He knew the internet could devalue music but also used it to engage with his fans decades before this became the de facto way to stay alive in the business.

We saw him a few years later at an arena in St. Louis with one of the smartest, kindest human beings on the planet, Jason Coker (AKA Chief Justice). During the final jam of the show, Prince yells, “Turn on the lights!” You saw thousands of people all smiling, cheering, dancing, crying—they were black, white, brown, straight/gay/bi/les, ages one to 99, all dancing and getting along. If the world could harness the feeling of a Prince live show, we wouldn’t be arguing about getting rid of dreamers or left versus right. We would be sharing ideas and loving one another. Too optimistic? Sure—but those of you who have been to a Prince show are nodding with me and going, “He ain’t lyin’…”

Last but not least, my favorite Prince story EVER. Huge thanks to our amazing producer Matt Wallace for letting us print this:

Matt was producing The Replacements at Paisley Park right after it was built. He was mixing through the night and understood Prince to be out of town. He was starving and quietly went into Prince’s kitchen and slowly opened the fridge. He piled up a plate full of chef-created food. Then he heard a door open behind him, and he slipped into a storage closet to hide. Wallace says he heard tiny little high heels click-clacking across the kitchen floor and then the fridge door opening… And then he heard Prince say, “Damn! You pay seven million for a studio, and there’s no f***ing food!”

Prince played guitar like Hendrix, danced like James Brown, led his band like a military operation, and he merged funk, R and B, and rock ’n’ roll more seamlessly than anyone before or since.

He wrote some of the funkiest, sexiest, most beautiful, and genre-bending songs ever created, and I know in my soul his genius will stand the test of time with the best artists that ever walked or danced their way across this planet. He was too damn cool to be with us forever, and he will forever be missed.

We are opening for Morris Day and the Time and the Revolution this weekend in Wichita, Kansas. It’s the last show of a 13-week run for us, and nothing could be more perfect. I will do my best not to make a fanboy out of myself if I hang with any of the bands. I will fail.

Thanks for reading. See you next Wednesday. I will post my all-time favorite Prince songs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram later this week. And I will let you know how the show goes. 🙂



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