That time I met the Time

My brush with greatness in 1982 on Prince's 1999 Tour

This post was updated. I mistakenly attributed the series of events to the 1981 Controversy Tour performance, but they actually happened during the 1982 1999 Tour performance.

It was December 5, 1982. My high school friends, David “Weasel” Johnson, Steve “Rooski” Johnson, Sean “Rat” Waddell, Kevin “Wigg” Wiggington and I got to the Louisville Gardens at least a full two hours before showtime. We got our tickets for Prince’s 1999 Tour weeks ago on the day they went on sale at Tiff’s Records on 4th street down the street from the Galleria.

When they opened the doors, me and my boys ran to the front to secure our spots right up next to the stage. We couldn’t wait for the show to start. We had been hanging all day in anticipation of the big night. It seemed like an eternity, but finally the lights went down and Vanity 6 took the stage. They did a short set and then The Time came on.

The Time’s self-titled album came out in the summer of 1981. I loved that record. It quickly became one of my favorites. I didn’t realize at the time that Prince, masquerading as Jamie Starr, had not only written, but had performed all of the tunes on the album. I knew that Prince was Jamie Starr, but I didn’t know when I first got the record that he had recorded all the instruments on the album like he had done with his own records.

Their sophomore release What Time Is It? was released in August of 1982 four months before the concert.

The band was tight! I mean tight! They sounded so damn good, much better than the album itself. During the show I noticed that bassist Terry Lewis had a penchant for walking back and forth while he was playing. The tune The Walk popularized the term “Go on and walk Terry”, which he did during the show.

Terry kept walking from the front of the stage to our left. He would stop when he got behind the speakers. He would stand there for about 10-15 seconds and then turn around and walk back to the center of the stage. He did this repeatedly throughout the show. Besides the fact that the band was absolutely killin’, that’s the thing that I remember most about the entire concert.

I honestly don’t remember Vanity 6’s or Prince’s set. I do remember being completely geeked up about seeing His Royal Badness in concert. But his show didn’t really leave me with as much of an impression as The Time’s performance. Interestingly, for as big of a fan that I am, I only saw Prince live three times; well actually 3.5 times.

The first time was during the Controversy Tour almost exactly a year before. The other time was the Musicology tour in 2004. I was living in Montclair, NJ at the time, working working at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. The shows at Madison Square Garden had sold out so thankfully I was able to cop 5 tickets to one of the 3 shows at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, just 90 minutes down the New Jersey Turnpike. My wife, Cheryl and I took our 3 kids, Wynton (11), Kennedy (8) and Morgan (5) to the show.

Because I worked in the performing arts, we routinely took our kids to a lot of concerts and performances. Of all the shows that we took them to over the years, this is probably the one that I am most glad that they got to see. Given that Prince is no longer with us, I’m very happy that our kids can say that they saw actually saw him live - with their parents no less.

The “half time” that I saw Prince was in September 2013 at the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival. Our client, Christian McBride performed there with his Big Band. Prince went on at 11:30PM. The Big Band went on at 12:30AM on another stage and on yet another stage, the Roots went on at the same time as the Big Band.

Before the Big Band set, Christian, Cheryl, a bunch of band members and I walked over to check out some of Prince’s performance. We saw about 15 - 20 minutes of his set before we had to go back. When the Big Band went on, Prince was still performing. Think about that for a second. Prince, The Roots and the Christian McBride Big Band were all performing at the same time.

It should come as no surprise that the Big Band show was virtually empty. On top of that, because his music was so loud you could hear Prince throughout the whole set. We learned later that evening from Questlove of the Roots that they had the exact same experience. So in essence whether you were at the stage where Prince was performing or not, everybody was at the Prince show.

After the show at the Louisville Gardens, me and my boys were hell bent on finding the hotel where Prince and the Time were staying. We knew there were only a couple of hotels where they could be. We started at the Galt House. We must have walked every floor of that hotel carefully placing our ears up to doors to see if we could hear something that would lead us to the afterparty. Neither one of us was older than 16, so I don’t know why we thought we would be able to get into an after party even if we found one.

When we got on the elevator, we noticed that there were two floors that you couldn’t access without a key. So after we checked all of the other floors, we went down to the kitchen and snuck on the service elevator to get onto the restricted floors.

When we got off the service elevator, we saw a beam of light shining onto the drab carpet of the hallway. We walked towards the light. The door to the room was cracked open and we could hear chatter that sounded like “rock stars” having a good time. We politely knock on the door and peeked our heads in. We had hit pay dirt. We found them!

“Come on in,” said a voice in the distance.

We opened the door and found ourselves in a large hotel suite with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Monte Moir and Jellybean Johnson. We didn’t see Morris Day or Jesse Johnson.

The first thing that I noticed when we walked in the room was McDonalds bags and discarded Big Mac cartons were strewn about all over the coffee table and floor. Jimmy, Terry and Monte were sitting down on the couches. Jellybean was standing over by the sink.

“Great show tonight guys,” said Weasel.

“Yeah you guys were great!” I added.

“Hey would you guys mind if we got some autographs from you?” asked Rooski.

“No problem,” said one of the cats.

None of us had any paper so we all grabbed a McDonalds bag from the floor.

As I took my bag around to each band member, Weasel asked where Morris and Jesse were. I don’t remember what they told us about Morris. I figured since he was a “star” that he had his own room.

“Jesse’s back in the room over there,” said Jimmy Jam. “He’s upset. He didn’t think that he played well tonight. You can ask him to sign your bag. Just knock on the door.”

Rat walked over and knocked on the door. The door cracked open.

“Can we have your autograph,” he said. “Jimmy Jam said it was cool.”

From across the room, all I could see was a hand poke out from the crack in the door with a pink highlighter in its grips. We all got in line with our McDonalds bags in hand like we were trick or treating. We all took turns as Jesse scribbled his moniker on our bags.

Before we left, I had to clear something up that was bugging me. I went over to the couch where Terry Lewis was sitting. He had on a black suit and his signature Fedora hat.

“Hey Terry, I noticed during the show that you kept walking back and forth while you were playing. When you got to the side of the stage behind the speaker you would stop for a bit and then keep walking. What were you doing?”

Terry laughed.

“Oh, yeah! So Prince stands on the side of the stage and watches every one of our shows. I kept walking over there to tell him that we were putting our foot in his ass tonight. I told him that I knew that he didn’t want to follow us.”

“He was madder than a [expletive],” yelled Jimmy Jam.

They all started to laugh and give each other five.

Terry was right.

I remember leaving that concert a little disappointed in Prince. The Time absolutely did outperform him and his band that night.

Evidently that wasn’t the only night where that happened.

When I went on Wikipedia looking for the exact dates of Prince’s performances in Louisville, I found this blurb on the Prince Controversy Tour entry.

Although The Time became superstars overnight with their debut album, The Time, they were frustrated at the lack of input they contributed to the album as, with the exception of Morris Day, they did not write or play their own music and were only being paid as a live act. During the tour, The Time would put on such a great show during their set that it began to worry Prince just how good they had become and with them performing right before his set, began to feel they were outshining him, so much so, that during the 1982–1983 1999 Tour, he kicked them off the tour for being so good.

When we left their room we went to get on the elevator. When the doors opened, there was Vanity in the flesh, literally. Prince’s bodyguard Big Chick was on there with her. Me and my boys quickly ran into the elevator before we were told to wait for the next one. Rat positioned himself next to Vanity. He was the baby of the bunch, but also one of the boldest. He looked over to her.

“Can I get a kiss?” he asked.

She laughed. And probably because he was so bold, she acquiesced.

“Sure,” she replied.

I can’t remember if Big Chick was paying attention or not. But I do remember thinking that Rat might get all of us killed.

He turned his cheek towards Vanity providing a clear and smooth landing spot for her lips. As her pouty lips were making their descent, Rat pulled a fast one.

He turned the other cheek towards her and met her lips with his own.

She kissed him right smack on the lips.

We were all in awe.

We were jealous.

We were mad.

We all thought that we were going to have to either watch Rat’s little scrawny ass get beat down by Big Chick or do our best to even the score.

The elevator bell rang.

The door opened.

Thank God we didn’t get faced with that dilemma.

We all escaped unscathed.

But, you couldn’t say anything to Rat for at least a month.

Forget about Prince.

He was the KING!

If you haven’t already please click the button below to join our mailing list or subscribe.