Prince Insider Alan Leeds on ‘Purple Rain’ Hysteria, Warner Bros. Clash
For a decade, Alan Leeds was arguably as close to Prince as any other person: The late artist’s former tour manager, president of Paisley Park Records, friend and confidante was by the musician’s side for nearly every moment of his professional life between 1983 and 1993. Leeds, who worked for James Brown in the late Sixties and early Seventies and has since gone on to manage the likes of Maxwell and D’Angelo, first joined Prince’s team during the 1999 tour, witnessed the heights of his fame circa Purple Rain and even battled with the icon over his acrimonious relationship with his record label, Warner Bros.
Beyond the fame and the drama, however, the pair were two men who came to understand and trust one another. “I never really got a chance to say thank you to him,” says Leeds, who only one day after learning his friend had passed away at age 57 spent an hour discussing his time with Prince in a conversation with Rolling Stone. “The opportunities and things I was exposed to and learned by being part of his world for those 10 years, you couldn’t buy it.”
What do remember about your first interaction with Prince? You were hired during the middle of the 1999 tour leaving your post as a tour manager for Kiss.
I’d been on the road for a couple of weeks, and his then-manager Steven Fargnoli as well as this bodyguard/personal assistant “Big Chick” Huntsberry had both warned me not to get too comfortable or feel too casual with Prince: “Let him get to know you. Let him get used to you being around,” and so on. I wasn’t really used to that because most of the artists I worked with were very proactive, aggressive personalities; the idea of tiptoeing around somebody was kind of new. I heeded their advice and just thought, “Just wait, once he gets used to you, it’ll be OK.”
I was introduced to him for the first time by his manager; Prince just kind of shook my hand and nodded. Two or three weeks into the tour, after a show, I was downstairs in a hotel bar with most of the band sitting at a big round table drinking beers. And we look up, and Prince and Chick walk in. And the interesting thing is, everybody else in the band froze. There was this kind of tension like, “Oh, my God. He’s here.” And I wasn’t familiar enough with the dynamic yet to understand the apprehension that they had – whether they were afraid he was going to snap out about the show or pick on them about this or that. I didn’t have any reason to know that. It just seemed weird to me. Now that Prince was there, it was like this cold awkward silence.
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