STORIES FROM THE PARK
PRN Alumni Foundation is comprised of the former employees of Prince, Paisley Park, Paisley Park Records, PRN Productions, NPG Records, Love4OneAnother, any and all of Prince’s companies spanning his impressive nearly 40 year career.
There have been, quite literally hundreds of us in Prince’s employ. The Foundation represents our collective voice.
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This ‘Stories From The Park’ chronicle is a way for our colleagues of all tenures and job types to share a little bit of Prince’s magic with you through our individual voices.
We hope you enjoy getting to know us…we feel as if we’ve known you, Prince’s fans (fam) forever <3
With love and gratitude,
PRN Alumni Foundation
Spotlight: Jerry Hubbard JR
DREAMS DO COME TRUE – THE JERRY HUBBARD JR STORY
HOW A YOUNG BOY WITNESSED THE BIRTH OF THE MINNEAPOLIS SOUND AND WAS DETERMINED TO BECOME A PART OF IT
Interviewed by writer: Tony Kiene
It would be no exaggeration to say that Jerry Hubbard has a rather unique perspective on The Minneapolis Sound. While just a youngster he had the privilege to observe its very origins as some of the older kids from his North Minneapolis neighborhood started to fashion what would ultimately become a musical revolution. Born Gerald Edward Hubbard, Jr. in 1965, Jerry came into the world at Mt. Sinai Hospital in South Minneapolis, the same location Prince Rogers Nelson was born in June of 1958.
Music was central to Jerry’ life from the very beginning. His father, Jerry Hubbard, Sr. – whose musical contemporaries included the fathers of Prince (John L. Nelson), André Cymone (Fred Anderson, Sr.), and Jimmy Jam (James “Cornbread” Harris) – was considered the premier guitarist in the vibrant Twin Cities jazz scene. A member of the celebrated Bobby Lyle Trio (along with his brother Gene Hubbard), Jerry, Sr. also played with the legendary Richard “Groove” Holmes among other greats.
OVER NORTH WITH SONNY T.
Growing up in a musical home on the North Side, Jerry, Jr. was quick to take notice of the older kids who were putting bands together. As Jerry notes, “There was Grand Central with that original line-up of Prince and his cousin Charles Smith, André and his sister Linda Anderson, Terry Jackson, and the very recently (and dearly) departed William “Hollywood” Doughty. Of course, there were also bands like Flyte Tyme, (which at the time included the likes of Terry Lewis, Cynthia Johnson, Jellybean Johnson, and David Eiland) and The (original) Family which featured the one and only Sonny Thompson.
Since his father was a local legend, “all those teenage cats were generous” and treated Jerry with respect. “Even though I was just a kid, they’d sometimes let me hold one of their guitars or a bass just so I could see what it was like.” As one might suspect, even then, Prince was the most mysterious of the bunch and thus, kind of hard to get to know. Yet while they were all cool, it was Sonny that ultimately became something of a mentor to the young Jerry.
“Sonny was over to our house all the time back then,” Jerry recalls, “He was so accomplished at such a young age that my father took him under his wing.” Thus, Jerry acknowledges it was natural that Sonny would fulfil a similar role in his own development. “I started on the drums. But when I saw Sonny on the bass it was over for me. I had to play bass.”
Initially, when Jerry’s father bought him that first bass, he was a little disappointed. It’s not that he didn’t appreciate his father’s gesture, it was just that he’d been hoping for a Fender Precision or something like it. But, Jerry Sr. insisted, “Let’s try this one first.” Sonny, who was visiting one day picked up the “cheap bass” and proceeded to play the hell out of it. A stunned Jerry shouted, “Wow, I didn’t know it could do that!” Sonny assured Jerry that it’s not the instrument, but that the person playing it that counts. Jerry heeded Sonny’s advice to keep practicing and from that day forward, he “loved that bass.”
COMING OF AGE
Although he saw him around a lot and even remembers Grand Central opening for his father once at North High Field, Jerry was never formally introduced to Prince until the summer of 1977. “I was on my way to North Commons Park. When I walked into the gym there were a lot of older dudes already there, including Sonny. So, I said ‘Hi.’”
“Lil’ Hubb,” responded Sonny as he made his way over, “You know Prince, right,” to which Jerry replied “No, I mean not really.” Sonny then calls Prince over and says, “This is Jerry, you know his dad is Jerry Hubbard, Sr.” Prince smiles and remarks, “Oh yeah, that’s cool. How you doin’ man?” As Prince made his way back to the court, Sonny mentioned that Prince just signed a record deal and was about to record his first album. Jerry “tripped out” and thought to himself, “Wow. A kid from my neighborhood is making a record. Someday I’m going to do that.”
By this time, Jerry had started to play with a couple bands that performed at school dances, house parties, and the like. He often sought Sonny’s advice on how to become a better musician and kept asking when Prince’s record was going to drop. Sonny promised, “Be patient. It’ll be out soon.” And then, in April of 1978, there it was; Prince’s debut album For You.
“It blew my mind,” proclaims Jerry, who at the time was all of thirteen-years-old. “I knew Prince was good, after all, I’d seen him play. But listening to this album, it was clear that this dude was something special. He was so cold.” As Prince continued to “blow up,” Jerry followed his every move. In January of 1980, after seeing Prince on American Bandstand, Jerry decided to “get serious” about music.
“As exciting as it all was, it was also frustrating” reveals Jerry, “I wanted to be out there myself, but I was still too young.” Determined to make his mark, he began gigging with some older musicians and eventually Jerry joined up with The Stylle Band from Rock Island, Illinois.
Having recently located to the Minneapolis at the behest of fellow Rock Island native Jesse Johnson, the group featured future Mazarati guitarist Craig “Screamer” Powell. The Stylle Band also included Craig’s sister, the late Sheila Rankin (who later joined the André Cymone project The Girls) and brother Bryan Rankin (who went on to play drums for André, Alexander O’Neal, Sue Ann Carwell, and others).
While his time in The Stylle Band was relatively short-lived, it was still pretty wild for a sixteen-year-old kid. “I wouldn’t have been allowed in any of the venues had I not been in the band,” laughs Jerry. “But I wasn’t shy on stage. I’d run out into the audience, jump off speakers, tables, whatever. It was intense.”
ARE YOU JERRY HUBBARD?
It wasn’t long before others either took notice of, or heard about Jerry’s playing, something he’d learn in a rather amusing moment on the street. He recounts, “I was just riding my bike over north when out of the blue a car pulls up and stops. My initial thought was ‘What in the world?’ Then, this guy jumps out and asks ‘Are you Jerry Hubbard?’ Of course, I say yes and he comes back with ‘I hear you are one bad bass player.’ He tells me that his name is Alexander O’Neal and wants to know if I’d be interested in auditioning for his band.”
Jerry took down the South Minneapolis address where the audition was to be held, and shortly thereafter he was the newest member of the Alexander O’Neal Band, which Alex put together after Prince dropped him from The Time. With Alex, Jerry recorded a few singles, including “I Wanna Get to Know Ya,” and “Do You Dare,” and the band had little trouble selling out local venues.
Jerry, still only seventeen, continued to hone not only his playing, but his energetic stage persona as well to the delight of crowds throughout the Twin Cities. And, among those frequently in the audience were none other than Prince, Morris Day, and Jesse Johnson. By now, it was the spring of 1983 and Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam, and Monte Moir were no longer with The Time. Word reached Jerry that Prince and those guys were looking for bassists and had their eyes on him.
A few weeks later at a club in White Bear Lake, Jerry ran into Jerome Benton, who said “Hubb. I need your number.” Jerome played coy about it and wouldn’t tell him why. He simply reassured Jerry that “I have you on file.” Jerry hoped that the rumors he was hearing were true, but after a couple months went by without a call, assumed the worst.
Then one summer day, he gets a call from Jesse, who asks, “Are you interested in the bass gig with The Time?” Jerry, who was still playing with Alex replied, “Yes. Of course.” Jesse instructed Jerry to learn all Prince’s bass parts from The Time’s first two albums, which he quickly absorbed.
There was a whisper around town that Prince was getting ready to make a movie and Jerry anxiously wondered what all this might mean for him. The only problem was Jesse never told him that he actually had the job. More time passed without another call and Jerry resigned himself to the fact that “It’s just not gonna happen.”
WHAT TIME IS IT?
That November, Jerry, who was still living at home, heard his mother calling him early one morning “Jerry. There’s a call for you. It’s Prince.” Jerry’s first instinct was, “Okay. It’s how early? This has to be one of my friends is playing a joke on me.” When he picked up the phone, the voice on the other end belonged to Jesse, who right away said, “Someone wants to talk to you.”
“The next thing I knew,” recollects Jerry, “Prince is asking me ‘Would you like to join The Time?’” Almost as quickly as Jerry could say “yes,” Prince was asking “Do you have any suits?” Fortunately, the attire in the Alexander O’Neal Band was quite similar to what The Time wore, so yes, Jerry had plenty of suits. “Good,” uttered Prince, “Get them and come to this address.” Now Jerry just had to find a way to get there.
“I was a young dude in the ‘hood. I had no car, no money. I resorted to knocking on doors to find a ride.” When he arrived, Jerry didn’t expect to see a full Hollywood production. “There were trucks, equipment, lights, and wires everywhere. I didn’t realize I’d be walking right onto the set of Purple Rain,” which had just started filming days before.
When he arrived, Jerry was greeted by one of Prince’s bodyguards who told him “Wait here for a minute.” After several minutes passed, Jerry began to fret that he’d be told to go home and his dreams would be crushed. Then, through all the noise, he heard a voice he recognized; it belonged to Rocky Harris.
Rocky was one of those guys that treated Jerry so well back in those early days. It turned out Rocky was the first one selected to replace Terry Lewis, but now for some reason was being let go himself. “I couldn’t see him, but I could sense what was happening. It made the whole day bittersweet,” muses Jerry. “Rocky, God rest his soul, was a great dude.”
After Rocky left the set, someone motioned for Jerry to come over. “I walked in and I couldn’t believe it. Am I really here,” Jerry asked himself? “Everybody was there. Morris, Jesse, Jellybean, Apollonia, and of course, Prince.” Prince eventually noticed Jerry and walked up to say, “It’s good to have you here.”
It was the next thing out of Prince’s mouth that caught him off guard. “What do you shave with,” asked Prince. A puzzled Jerry, who at that moment realized he must be showing a little five o’clock shadow replied, “Uh, you know, Magic Shave,” to which Prince said, “Okay. Just wear your beard then.” After filming several takes of the Apollonia 6 warehouse audition scene, Jerry’s first day on location complete.
As the production moved from the warehouse on Flying Cloud Drive to First Avenue, things were good for Jerry. “I felt as though I was fitting in really well. I was from the same place as most of the guys and I played like them.” Plus, about a week in to his tenure, Prince came up to Jerry again and said, “Man. I really love your playing. Happy to have you here.”
A NEW BEGINNING
A few months after filming on Purple Rain was complete, Jerry and the rest of the fellas began rehearsing for the Purple Rain Tour. “I think we were out at the other warehouse out on Highway 7,” he recalls, “The Time along with Sheila E. were supposed to open on the tour.” However, things were pretty tense from the beginning. “Morris was almost never there, so Prince ran the rehearsals. If for some reason Prince wasn’t around then it was Jesse in charge.”
When The Time officially broke up and Jerry learned he wouldn’t be part of the tour, it was “devastating.” Yet Prince would soon throw him and some of his other brothers in The Time a lifeline. As Morris and Jesse made the move to go solo, Prince tapped Jerry, Jellybean, Jerome, and St. Paul Peterson for his first new project on Paisley Park Records. Along with Susannah Melvoin and Eric Leeds, the four holdovers from The Time now helped to make up The Family, with Paul out front.
Wanting to spend as much time observing Prince as possible, Jerry often stayed behind after rehearsals. “One night early in the process I asked ‘Can I hang out with you,’” says Jerry, “And Prince was like, ‘Yeah, let’s start putting this album together.’” Prince then summoned Susan Rogers who brought a bunch of tapes over to the studio in St. Louis Park. Prince started playing one of the tapes and said to Jerry, “What do you think of this?” The song was “100 MPH.”
Floored by the track, Jerry instantly got “the ugly face,” adding that “Prince had it too.” It was so funky, Jerry had to ask “Where did that come from,” to which Prince wittily replied, “Just a little something’ I’ve been working on.” Prince played three of four more tracks, including “Wonderful Ass,” which Jerry found a little bizarre, but he liked it nonetheless. On another occasion, the two men stayed in the studio and jammed all night with Jerry on drums and Prince on the bass. As Jerry continued to learn from Prince, he couldn’t wait to start work on The Family’s album.
Even though Jerry was getting along well with Prince, he was still painfully aware that you never knew what kind of mood he might show up in. There was one time at First Avenue where Jerry was talking to his cousin Pierre Lewis. Pierre himself recorded a few times with Prince, both on his own project The Lewis Connection (which included his brother André Lewis and Sonny Thompson) and as a member of Pepé Willie’s band 94 East.
As Jerry tells it, “Pierre and I were actually talking about Prince and everything that I was doing with him. That same moment Prince walks into the club. Pierre was like ‘There he is, go talk to him.’” Jerry, not knowing what to expect and certainly not wanting to be embarrassed, decided to play it cool and pretend he didn’t notice Prince. As he and Pierre continue to converse, Prince walks by, then stops, turns and gives Jerry this huge hug. “I was shocked,” laughs Jerry, “He was so nice.” After chatting for a moment or so, Prince moved on, and Pierre also taken aback, says, “Wow cousin. I didn’t know the two of you had it like that.” Jerry, thinking to himself “didn’t realize it either.”
THE REVUE OR THE FAMILY?
While Jerry was waiting for things with The Family to take shape, he heard from another good friend; Jesse Johnson. Jesse’s pitch was simple. “I just signed with A&M and I want you to come play bass for me.” Jerry was torn. “What am I going to do,” he thought. As always, Prince had a multitude of things that required his attention. With Purple Rain, he had the biggest album and film of 1984. Plus, the tour was scheduled to kick off that November in Detroit.
In the end, it came down to which album was going to be released first, so Jerry made the decision to join Jesse. Nevertheless, the idea of having to tell Prince tormented him. Jesse, sensing Jerry’s anguish told him, “Just hang tight, nothing’s happening right this moment.”
A short time later, Jerry, who was still on the payroll of PRN Productions, went to the mailbox to get his check, which reliably arrived every Friday. When it wasn’t there, he called Paul Peterson to see “what was up?” To Jerry’s complete surprise, Paul explained, “Prince found out you were going to play with Jesse.” To this very day, Jerry wonders how Prince could have possibly heard. “It wasn’t even official yet. But somehow he already knew.”
In retrospect, at least Jerry didn’t have to tell Prince. That said, he always hoped that Prince didn’t hold a grudge. After all, Prince was one of his heroes. And to Prince’s credit, he didn’t hold that grudge.
LIVIN’ THE DREAM
Even though he was no longer in the Prince camp, when The Family’s album came out (a few months after Jesse’s), Jerry can’t forget how proud he was of all those guys (and Susannah). The one thing that struck him however, was that he didn’t recognize any of the tracks. “The album was so good, but none of the songs Prince played for me showed up. It was an entirely new record. Man, he was so prolific.”
Things continued to look up for Jerry as well. As the bassist for Jesse Johnson’s Revue, many of his musical dreams were now being fulfilled. Not only did he play coast to coast on Jesse’s 1985 Special Love Tour, Jerry soon found himself performing on American Bandstand, Soul Train, and other shows. “We did a lot of big festivals too.” notes Jerry, “We shared the bill with acts like Kool & The Gang, Teena Marie, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Patti LaBelle, New Edition, Bobby Brown.
When the band’s line-up changed a bit on Jesse’s second album, 1986’s Shockadelica, Jerry was reunited with old friends Sonny Thompson, Rocky Harris, and William Doughty. An added plus, and another dream come true was the opportunity to share the stage (music video) and recording studio with Sly Stone on Jesse’s highest charting single (#2 US R&B) “Crazay.”
In addition to his tenures with Prince, The Time, Alexander O’Neal, and Jesse Johnson, Jerry contributed his talents to the careers of a “Who’s Who” of Minneapolis Sound veterans including Vanity, Ta Mara and The Seen, Cynthia Johnson, Janet Jackson, and many others. And in 1990, Jerry inked a publishing deal with Michael Jackson.
Later on, along with Troy Royster, Jr. and fellow Prince vets Mike Scott and John Blackwell, Jerry travelled across Japan with pop legend Utada Hikaru on the Bohemian Summer Tour. Then, in 2002, he partnered with Brownmark on the Cryptic project, which yielded the album It’s Been A While. Some of Jerry’s other career highlights include six years on the faculty at the renowned Institute of Production and Recording (IPR) and as a member of the Minneapolis supergroup The Truth, which was made up of alumni representing The Time, The Family, Madhouse, Mint Condition, and Prince’s New Power Generation among other bands.
When he looks back on everything, Jerry can’t help but think of all those who helped make his life in music a reality. No doubt, he was well guided by his parents and the possibilities that a musical household provides. “Being exposed to those other cats in my neighborhood is why I became a musician.”
Jerry’s quick to point out that is wasn’t only Prince, Sonny, or the guys that came out of Grand Central, Flyte Tyme, and other groups who made a difference. “It was guys like Pepé Willie, Spike Moss, Johnny Simpson, and James McGregor, who we all called “McGoo.”
Through it all, it’s not lost on Jerry how much he worried it wouldn’t turn out the way it did. “It’s so funny,” ponders Jerry, “A few days before I got the call to join The Time, my mother and I drove downtown to Woolworths, which by then had moved inside the IDS Center. There were these huge trucks up and down the block, but we didn’t know why.”
Jerry stayed in the car as his mother went into the store. She quickly returned to say, “Prince is in there shooting a movie.” It was the famous Crystal Court scene with Apollonia. “Mom encouraged me to go inside, but instead I told her ‘I want to go home.’” Not that Jerry didn’t want to see it for himself, it was just that he wanted to be part of it all so bad he couldn’t bear to watch when he wasn’t.
Although his mother agreed to drive him home, she first looked at her son and said, “Jerry. God is watching over you. It’ll all work out and you’ll be alright.” Then Prince called. It seems as though mother knew best.
© Tony Kiene & PRN Alumni Foundation