Every journey has a beginning. Long before music lovers across the world found their souls bathed by the cascading notes of “Purple Rain,” Prince was the skinny kid on the Minneapolis scene who always had a guitar in his hand. In 1975, Prince Rogers Nelson was 16 years old and already shredding the guitar prodigiously.
So it made perfect sense that when recent Brooklyn transplant Pepe Willie was putting together a band of local session players to back him up, he was pointed in the direction of Prince.
The resulting session would become the genesis of 94 East, a Minneapolis funk group that would last until Prince’s talent eclipsed not just the group but the entire city.
A close listen to “I’ll Always Love You,” the most soulful cut recorded on Dec. 4, 1975, at Cookhouse Studio, takes you right to the beginning of Prince’s creative life. His guitar bubbles and stews inside the groove, giving it its vitality.
As Pepe Willie sweetly croons, “That’s how I’ll remember you today,” we can see the young Prince ready for glory — ready to hop on East 94 and head straight out of Minneapolis and into the annals of music history.