Is This The Earliest Recording of a Live Prince Performance?


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers…

Prince performs at Cobo Hall on December 20, 1980 in Detroit, Michigan.Prince performs at Cobo Hall on December 20, 1980 in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Leni Sinclair via Getty Images

The Minnesota Historical Society may have accidentally uploaded video of Prince leading one of his first bands at the age of 16.

As the posthumous Prince releases continue to pile up, a video of the late icon as a teen (very) briefly showcases one of the prodigious musician’s very first bands. And it could be one of the earliest glimpses at the Purple One we’ve ever seen.

Late last month, the Minnesota Historical Society posted a clip from the demolition ceremony of a local YWCA building in Minneapolis in 1974. In attendance is the city’s mayor, Al Hofstede, who throws the first blow of a sledgehammer to the soon-to-be-gone community center. But before we get to see Hofstede wind up, the camera flashes to the yard outside of the building where you can see and hear (again, for just a moment,) a band playing a bright funk vamp with a singer leading the charge. According to a short description posted by MHS, that band is Grand Central, which makes that singer a 16-year-old Prince.

Now, glimpses of pre-fame Prince aren’t exactly difficult to find. A few years back, the artist’s estate issued an official release of a collection of songs recorded with 94 East, a Minneapolis band headed by Pepé Willie, a neighbor of friend and collaborator, André Cymone (who was also a member of Grand Central.) But those recording sessions took place several years after Prince and Cymoné formed Grand Central, a band that would eventually grow to include Cymone’s sister, Linda, on keys and a young Morris Day on the drums. It’s a period just before the local buzz began to build around Prince and the (barely) nine seconds of footage from this Grand Central appearance, which MHS may or may not have known was Prince’s band at the time it was uploaded, might be all we have to document it.

You can catch a criminally quick glance of Prince and Grand Central oddly providing the entertainment for a demolition event via the Minnesota Historical Society. Let’s see what else they can dig up.