Before Prince: Minneapolis’s Funk Prehistory

NO EXCUSES OR APOLOGIES for bigging up the latest gift (for that is what it always feels like) from Numero Group, their 50th release in total since their inception in 2003. This time the record label renowned for their rootling for America’s regional riches focuses on the futuristic funk, soul and R&B of Minneapolis: the snow-laden breeding ground for the Purple Pixie himself, Prince.

Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound is a 4-LP/2-CD package, dropping on November 11 and running the gamut from post-Parliamentarian electro-funk to rock-hard soul. There’s funk-rockers Purple Haze (later Haze) – surely the pigmentary progenitors of Prince – and the early incarnations of Jimmy “Jam” Harris (Mind & Matter) and Terry Lewis (Flyte Tyme – see below in their gimcrack George Clinton finery). Notoriously flamboyant Prince bassist André Cymone looks in and Alexander O’Neal shows off some early moves.

They’re all lovingly documented in an eye-boggling 100-plus page booklet, which also pays fulsome pictorial tribute to the DJs and denizens of the Twin Cities’ soul clubs, like the Taste Show Lounge, whose DJ booth and one of its regulars – Steve “Crook” Holbrook – are pictured at the top of this article. [Photo by Charles Chamblis, courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society]. Kudos to Jon Kirby, among others, for a glorious piece of musical archaeology.

Fans of future-soul, ’80s electro avenues and Prince take note. And get a taste of the music and the looks, especially the looks, in the following “album trailer”. Gett Off!


And here’s Flyte Tyme, looking fine...

Flyte Tyme (clockwise from top left): David Eiland, Anton Johnson, Garry Johnson, David Wright, Cynthia Johnson, James Anderson, Terry Lewis (centre) | Photograph by Charles Chamblis, courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.