Published on May 5th, 2016 | by Alan Cross1
The Time an Unknown DJ Got to Spin for Prince
No, I’d never heard of Wally Waves, either. But damn, he’s got a cool story that he calls “Purple Tuesday.”
I was home watching TV and cutting up a steak when I got the call at 8PM. A friend of mine worked at a famous hotel in LA and one of the guests made a last minute request for a DJ to play the hotel bar. Someone that could get there and start playing in an hour. The bar frequently had live bands play, but never a DJ. So with little to no time, my wise and generous friend thought to throw a gig my way.
“Yeah, I can get there in an hour. Am I getting paid?”
“Yes, you’ll get paid.”
“What kind of party is it? What am I playing?”
“Someone’s renting out the bar for a private party. And that someone is… The Artist… formerly… known… as… Prince.”
That sentence was not real to me. Still not real. I had no time to really think or say anything but, “What? You serious? Yes. Be there as soon as I can.” Got off the phone and my stomach turned. Only a handful of people in the world have imprinted their music that much in my brain. And couldn’t he just call up any of the best DJ’s in LA to come play for him? Why’s he gonna trust someone who is by all means an unknown? I’d been DJing parties and bars for years but going from that to Prince is an Olympic leap.
The next half hour felt like a panic attack. I made a list of songs to play for Prince and his private Prince party. Ok, no Prince songs. He doesn’t want to hear himself. No MJ. I don’t want to insult him or anything. Didn’t they have beef in the 80’s? No hip hop. Can’t picture him rocking out to Kendrick. I thought of who he was influenced by and dragged some James Brown and Stevie songs into the playlist. Isley Brothers, Curtis. Great. 8:20PM. I still have to get ready even though I could spend the next month picking songs. I quickly close my laptop and get dressed. Pack up my turntables, mixer, cables and run them all to the car as I’m sweating through this black suit.
I get to the hotel with about five minutes to set up. The bar is completely empty aside from a couple of servers and my friend who made the call. And the room is almost lit exclusively by candlelight. I’m told to set up my turntables on the grand piano, which is also covered with candles, making me feel like hip hop Liberace. A waitress tells me there’s like an 80% chance Prince doesn’t show up. He just likes to rent out the bar in case he and his friends wander through the hotel and feel like stopping in. “But you should start playing music anyway in case he comes in. Who knows.” So I start playing songs to the very empty bar. The anticipation is a killer. My friend gives me a much needed glass of whiskey before taking off.
A giant spread of appetizers is covering the bar and getting sweaty. Spring rolls, cheese, orange juice. An hour goes by. Then another hour. A no-show. I’m kind of bummed out but also very relieved. I don’t know how I’m going to react if he walks in that door. So I’m just playing the set of my life to nobody. It’s like I’m getting paid to practice and listen to whatever I want on the bar’s sound system.
At 12AM the door opens and some guy walks over to me and without a greeting he says,
“Hey man. He’ll be here in 15 minutes. What are you gonna play when he walks in?”
“Oh I got some stuff lined up. Some older Stevie Wonder, the JB’s.”
“Yeah. Yeah, he likes that. Anything like that, Earth Wind & Fire, Chic.”
“Yeah I got Chic! I’ll play that.”
“And he wants to hear Janelle Monáe when he walks in. You got that?”
“Yup. Yup. Janelle Monáe.”
“Cool, he’ll be here in 15 minutes.”