It was the winter of 1981 when I first saw singer-songwriter André Cymone sliding across the Saturday Night Live stage. This was years before his solo albumswhich include the wonderfulness of this months The Stonegoing way back to the pre-purple days when Cymone was part of his Minneapolis boyhood friend Princes touring band.
Four months prior, Prince had transformed himself from an I Wanna Be Your Lover disco-soul wailer to a sexually charged rock n roll wild man with his groundbreaking third album, Dirty Mind. Performing Partyup, the albums killer closing track, Prince, André and guitarist Dez Dickerson ripped through the set with furious abandon. Even when Prince dropped an F bomb, no one seemed to care. Black rock was in the house, and everybody was going crazy.
Dressed in a flowing overcoat, Cymone was bare-chested as he played a zebra print bass with a matching strap. Onstage the frantic performance was precise, but behind the scenes, the band situation was less than perfect. I had already quit the group by then, Cymone recalls 33 years later. Me and Prince were the best of friends, I had respect for him, but I didnt want to be just some bass player. I was going to do my own thing.
Cymone and Prince had been buddies since high school. Playing together in a band called Grand Central, the two were inseparable as teenagers. When life got too much at home for the budding musical genius, Prince Rogers Nelson came to live with his buddys already big family, where Andrés mom Bernadette Anderson raised him as one of her own sons.
The oft-told tale has become a major part of the Prince mythology, as various writers have taken their own spin (from orgies to simply intense practicing) on what went on in that basement where he dwelled. Viewing Mrs. Anderson as a surrogate mom, its safe to say that if it wasnt for her love, guidance and encouragement, there would be no Minneapolis Sound, and neither of those men would be where they are today.
Allowing the boys Grand Central crew (which included Morris Day on drums) to practice their music in the basement, Bernadette briefly worked as the groups manager, though the bookings were often less fabulous. She would have us playing at her friends barbeques, Cymone recalls. Shed tell us just play for 45 minutes to an hour, otherwise people would get tired of us.
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