I watched the film, "Sign O' The Times" on Netflicks recently and had flashbacks from seeing PRINCE five times, hanging with his promoters and management as I worked in radio sales in the 80's and 90's. The best showman in concert and such a brillianr performer, songwriters, artists, musicians and business men ever in the entertainment business.
I was working in radio at WCKS, KISS 102 Radio in Charlotte, NC from 1988 - 1991. The summer of 1988 I came in from a day calling on clients, the week was about to end that Friday, or so I thought it was, yet was just beginning as I walked into the radio station about 5:00. The next meeting I was supposed to have was Monday morning as PRINCE had announced he was coming to Charlotte, September 24 and I was going to meet with his advance team working with the promoter, Brass Ring Productions and Quentin Perry's advance man, Billy Sparks. You may remember Billy sparks, he was the guy in "Purple Rain" that was PRINCE'S "manager with the white sunglasses. He told PRINCE, "Ain't Nuttin But A Biness Kid". and did a great job in the movie.
I walked in, and there was Billy Sparks along with a big guy named Dewey. They came to town for the weekend to check out the market, to see what was really going on in the radio world, as KISS 102 was a new station that was shaking up the radio world in Charlotte with our "Churban" format, Top 40 dance music and we were the hottest thing going on in the summer of 1988 in the Carolina's.
The three of us talked a little, I suggested we go and get some dinner, which was a pretty good idea. I think we just about put an all-you-can -eat seafood place out of business, enjoyed stories, laughter and the start of what is now a 30 plus year old still keep in touch friendship. Billy asked me to take them around to some clubs on Saturday night, so they could get a feel for the town and to scope out the club scene, to prepare in advance for an after party for the band and management after the September concert.
I invited Billy and Dewey to come to dinner first at my home on Saturday as home cooking can help bond that relationship and good times getting to know each other to build that relationship. After dinner, we visited about five or so clubs, looking at access routes, privacy areas and meeting some of the club owners to plan the after party in a couple months.
Monday morning at the station, we called Quentin (the promoter) in Michigan for a conference call as I had prepared a marketing strategy for KISS 102 to promte the concert with commercials, promotions, ticket giveaways to promote the concert like they've never had a radio station work for them for a concert. During the conversation with Q, he mentioned our price for the commercials, to which Billy immediately chimed in, "Q, do not worry about pricing, Doak and KISS 102 are taking care of us".
LESSON - Build the Trust of New Relationships as your build Relationships in Advance of the Proposal, when possible.
We promoted the show and Billy would call and say he hears we are doing an awesome job and tickets are selling like crazy.
The day of the show - LOVE SEXY Tour hits Charlotte. Because of the relationship, I told Billy I'd pick him up at the airport that Saturday morning. We checked him into the Adam's Mark Hotel, ran an errand or two (drycleaners) and Quentin arrived a little later in the morning. Q told me he likes to go to an antique shop in a new town to buy his grandmother something. I took him to an antique shop, he bought and had an antique shipped to his grandmother. I was looking at a framed artwork of a tennis event and Q said, "He will have that and I'll take care of it". So a cool framed artwork that hung in my house for years. LESSON - Take Care of the client and they will take care of you - some of the time. Let them be nice to you.
We went to the new Charlotte Coliseum and had lunch with the band, oh yea, Sheila E, Doctor Fink, Miko, Boni and other band members. We watched the sound check, which was awesome, Billy did a couple radio station call ins. I remember it started to rain outside and Billy telling the radio station, "That is just Purple Rain coming down for the concert".
Standing in the back with Billy and the band, then I saw PRINCE come out of a door and he got into the black equipment case, all scrunched in and they closed the case marked K-9. The rolled it out and under the stage. Prince used a number of elaborate props on the moving, multi-tiered stage such as a basketball hoop, a fountain, trellis fences and a full-scale replica of his Ford Thunderbird automobile.
Showtime and PRINCE was in a T-Bird on the side of the stage, it started up and the start of the two-hour show included most songs from the Lovesexy album, alongside well-known hits and rarer material. In usual Prince fashion, many shows saw the premiere of entirely new songs, particularly "Blues in C (If I Had a Harem)".
Thematically, the show was divided into two very distinct main acts with the themes of light and dark. Act One, which ran for an hour, consisted mainly of older material from Prince's earlier albums, often strung together into medley form to ease time constraints.. Act Two consisted largely of songs from Lovesexy, plus classic hits such as "Kiss" and towards the end of the concert, "Let's Go Crazy", "Purple Rain", and "1999". The highlight of the show was the piano medley in the second act, often featuring "When 2 R in Love", "Venus de Milo", "Starfish and Coffee", "Raspberry Beret", and "Condition of the Heart"..
LESSON - It is Entertainemnt, go BEYOND what other artists will do to Entertain Your Fans. PRINCE did not need all the props to sell tickets, yet he gave them what they were Not Expecting.
The show ended and the crowd of 16.000 went home happy. Just about everyone excluding PRINCE, went to a club, "Side Effects" as we secured a private area for the band, the mangement along with Billy and Dewey. Great conversation, dancing with CAT (vocalist) on the dance floor was awesome. The Pre-planning in Juley paved way for a great September event. LESSON - Plan ahead, use the local contacts and your clients to secure the details needed by your client the day of the event.
Back to the hotel about 3:00 AM, I am ready to say goodbye and Billy asks if I will take them to the airport that Sunday morning after we eat breakfast. As I started walking down the hall, Billy asks me to come back for a minute. He hands me a LOVE SEXY crew sweat suit and told me PRINCE wanted me to have it as a Thank You for my efforts to make the event a success. I went to breakfast that Sunday morning, took Billy and Q to the airport. Billy says,
"We will be in Greensboro next month and we want you to hang with us that day and we will take care of your hotel room and everything for you". A month later, we do spend a day and a concert again. LESSON - Go The Extra Mile.
Four more concerts over the years, Billy would invite me to come and hang backstage in the afternoon or early evening with him and the crew on most shows. When he was not in town, he would call and ask how many tickets to the show, I would tell him two are very appreciated and he always came through for me with the best seats in the house. LESSON - Stay in touch over the years with your clients that become friends.
The other promoters through the years became friends and clients, and I believe because of that small world, Billy, Q and the PRINCE team told them to work with me and take care of me and our station. those stories are for other times. LESSON - It is a small world, take care of everyone because the news spreads of who will work hard for the clients.
PRINCE - the Ultimate Showman. The stages, the band, the crew, the promotions and his team treating people to make them feel so special and buidling relationships even after the tours. LESSON - Artists, Management, Promotions - make sure everyone in your company knows how to treat everyone with respect for their hard work and efforts.
As I look back over my crazy journey in music and entertainment, I am thankful for the times shared because of music. The relationships and lessons learned still prove value along with those, "WOW, I got to do that and who I met along the journey and sometimes got to know as a friend". I never take them for granted, treasure the memories and still say "Thanks". LESSON - Be Thankful in Life, Make Memories and Build Relationships.