A couple weeks ago, I was privileged to attend a wonderful birthday party for Jerome Benton, the stylish and humorous brother who has been a part of the Minneapolis scene and sound since the beginning. At that event, which was produced by Bklyn Gurl Productions (shout out to Tonya Giddens) and held at Katra in downtown Manhattan, journalist Miles Marshall-Lewis interviewed Jerome on a wide range of issues spanning his extensive career as a member of several notable bands including The Time, The Family and more. In addition, Jerome took questions from the audience, shot selfies with fans, and spoke one on one with anyone who approached him. He genuinely engaged with the large but intimate crowd of fans who were donned with various Prince-themed accessories.
Jerome Benton arrive at Katra in New York City
Like other fans in attendance, I have been a fan of Jerome, the performer, since first seeing him as Morris Day‘s humorous wing man in Purple Rain and then, as Christopher Tracy’s (Prince) brother, Tricky, in Under The Cherry Moon. I have also been fortunate to have had a couple of my own comedic times with him personally. So, on this evening, it was great to become an even bigger fan of Jerome, the man.
With this in mind, I was very pleased to learn that I would be able to have a Q/A with him. Given my love with all things Minneapolis Sound, I was eager to ask an endless list of questions, but am thankful that we were able to get a few of our more important inquiries answered. As you will see, Jerome is very open and honest about his various roles as well as his thoughts on Prince. He has been an eye witness and active participant in one of the most influential and enduring music movements in history and it is our pleasure to be able to connect with a true legend.
Jerome Benton and soulhead Founder Ron Worthy (Photo Credit: Kevin Brown)
Q/A with Jerome Benton
Ron Worthy: Since you are Terry Lewis brother, you were around when there was a serious battle of the bands in the late 1970s in Minneapolis. Can you describe the scene for our listeners? It sounds really competitive. Given everyone was so young, did that impact you guys socially?
Jerome Benton: Growing up during that time in the 70s was a great time for us, very competitive. Remember, Minneapolis during that time had two distinct areas: Black and White. My brother Terry formed this battle of the bands at our high school which enabled us to play the type of music we wanted to hear as well as play. Cynthia Johnson (Lipps Inc.), Andre Cymone, Alexander ONeal, Greg Williams (Baywatch) performed with them as well. There were different bands in the area trying to outdo each other but it all came down to the respect and love for the music that was being created.
Ron Worthy: Can you tell us how you were brought into The Time? Was it a conscious decision to include you to increase the showmanship of the group?
Jerome Benton: I was actually a roadie with the band in the beginning, loading and unloading equipment during shows and eventually became a valet for the band. One night we were at rehearsal, and there was a lyric in one of the songs that said somebody bring me a mirror. I dont know what came over me but when those lyrics came on I got up, took the mirror off the wall and ran up to Morris Prince loved it and the rest is history. There was something about it that clicked and it became a staple in our shows.
Ron Worthy: There is a rumor that you once stood in for Terry after he and Jimmy Jam missed a show in Texas. Apparently, Prince played the bass while you held it on stage. Did that really happen?
Jerome Benton: Yes, it happened. It was something that needed to be done at the time so again in the moment we did what needed to be done. The creative side of me that I didnt know I had at the time had to step up.
Jerome Benton and Morris Day in Purple Rain
Ron Worthy: For the most part, your work in the film Purple Rain was comedic relief. Your interaction with Morris is the stuff of legend. However, many fans to this day question the need for the scene when you dumped the young lady in the garbage dumpster when she confronted the two of you on the street. What was your reaction when you saw that in the script?
Jerome Benton: It didnt bother me because we were following the directives of the director. We were young and in the moment; we didnt realize there were so many components that came together in the film and this scene was one of them.
Ron Worthy: Looking back now, how would you best describe your role in the groups in which you have been a part of?
Jerome Benton: Ive been fortunate to have been an integral part in FIVE groups to have grown with them and live and create the music, thats why its so hard for others to do what Ive done. We actually created real tangible music which is missing in todays music. Being in five groups is something that NO one has done and Im very proud of that.
Jerome Benton and Prince in Under The Cherry Moon
Ron Worthy: Can you please tell us where you were when you heard that Prince had passed? When was the last time you spoke with him or interacted with him?
Jerome Benton: I was in LA when I heard the news; the last time I spoke to him was something that will stay between us in my vault. The memories I have with Prince will always stay close to me and when Im ready to talk about it I will if ever.
Ron Worthy is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of soulhead.com. He is a passionate audiophile who has been DJ for over 25 years, studied classical music and has played 4 instruments. He loves discussing all things Prince, Hip-Hop, and Funk. He shoots a mean game of pool, digs comedy, eating fried fish sandwiches, making crab cakes and drinking micro-brews from all over the World. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and cat. Check out some of his work for soulhead.