10. Dez Dickerson was known for playing lead guitar in Prince’s backing band from 1979-1983.
After a 15-minute audition in the back of Del’s Tire Mart, Dickerson was picked as guitarist. In 1980 when off the road for Christmas break, Dickerson had a profound conversion experience and became a born-again Christian. Afterwards, performing songs with sexual themes began to trouble his conscience. Even though Dickerson’s and Prince’s popularity were growing, he desired more and more to quit the band. He contributed songs for Prince’s side projects, writing “He’s So Dull” for Vanity 6, and co-writing “Wild And Loose”, “After Hi School”, and “Cool” for the Time. Dickerson contributed vocals to “Little Red Corvette” and “1999” on the 1999 album, as well as the guitar solo for “Little Red Corvette” that ranked number 64 on Guitar World’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.
Following the 1999 tour, Dickerson left the band to pursue other options.
9. André Cymone was the bass guitarist for Prince’s touring band, pre-Revolution.
In the late 1970s, after Prince released his debut album, For You, Prince recruited Cymone as bassist for his touring band. Cymone stayed with Prince until 1981 when he quit the band over tensions with Prince.
The two later resolved their issues and Cymone, managed by Owen Husney, went on to release 3 solo albums – Livin’ in the New Wave (1982), Survivin’ in the 80s (1983), and AC (1985). All were out of print for a long period of time, but all three of his solo records have been remastered, and expanded with extra tracks. His most successful single – a song written by Prince – was “The Dance Electric” from the AC album.
Cymone went on to become a record producer and is better known for producing Jody Watley (to whom he was married and shares a son). He has also produced and written songs for several other artists, including Pebbles, Jermaine Stewart, Tiffany and Adam Ant. In 1988, Cymone produced three tracks and co-wrote the track “Under My Skin” for Phil Thornalley’s 1988 only solo album Swamp.
His song “Better Way” is part of the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack released in 1987.
8. Apollonia 6 was a female singing trio created by Prince
After a number of disputes with Prince, Vanity (Denise Matthews), the lead singer of the Prince-created Vanity 6, fled the Prince entourage in 1983 to pursue solo endeavors, recording with Motown Records and acting in films. She left open an acting position for the role written for her by Prince in the film Purple Rain.
After a frantic casting call, the film’s director met actress and model Patricia Kotero. Renamed by Prince as “Apollonia”, her middle name, Kotero stepped into Vanity’s role in the film Purple Rain, as well as in the fragmented group Vanity 6, as lead singer. The other two members of Vanity 6, Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie, joined Apollonia, and the group was christened “Apollonia 6” for the film and what would be their sole album (featuring Prince associates Jill Jones and Wendy & Lisa on backing vocals).
7. Jill Jones was a singer and songwriter, and actress who performed as a backing vocalist for Prince in the 1980’s.
Jones met Prince in 1980 at age 18, when Teena Marie was the opening act during his Dirty Mind tour. Prince loved her voice, encouraged her to sing, and stayed in touch with Jones. She became a backup vocalist for Prince when he invited her to the Sunset Sound recording studios in 1982, to sing backing vocals for several tracks on the album 1999. She was credited under just her initials J.J. She also was featured in music videos for the songs “1999” and “Little Red Corvette”, as well as extended rarely aired music video for “Automatic”, and then joined the tour for 1999 to sing backing vocals with the Prince side-project Vanity 6. After the tour, she moved to Minneapolis and became Prince’s on-and-off again girlfriend. She had a bit part as a waitress in the film Purple Rain (1984), and had an appearance in the sequel Graffiti Bridge (1990), where she takes off an undergarment to end a conflicting scene with Prince.
Her debut album was the self-titled Jill Jones (1987), released on Prince’s Paisley Park Records. Prince was credited as a co-writer with Jones, but wrote all of the songs himself. Upon its release, the album received positive reviews from critics, but was not a commercial success.
6. Vanity 6 was an female vocal trio assembled by Prince in mid–1981.
In 1981, Prince, himself a rising musical star, suggested that his three female friends—his girlfriend Susan Moonsie, Boston native Brenda Bennett, and Jamie Shoop—form a girl group that would be called “The Hookers”. Prince’s vision was that the three women would perform in lingerie and sing sensual songs with lyrics about sex and fantasy.
With the new trio finalized, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6. He provided the group, now dressed in lingerie and high heels, with provocative songs (although within the album credits, group members were sometimes given sole writing credits). Their first single, “He’s So Dull”, was a minor hit in Australia and the Netherlands, and appeared in the film National Lampoon’s Vacation. The second single, “Nasty Girl”, was a hit on both the U.S. R&B chart, peaking at number 7, and U.S. Dance chart (where it hit number one).
During the group’s existence, members sometimes provided backing vocals on Prince’s albums.
5. Jesse Johnson is best known as the guitarist in the original lineup of The Time
On a friend’s recommendation, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1981, where he met Morris Day and played briefly in Day’s band which was called Enterprise. He then became the lead guitarist for the Time, a funk rock group formed by Prince.
Although Prince basically wrote and recorded the first two Time albums on his own with input from Morris Day, Johnson did contribute to another Prince project, Vanity 6, with a song called “Bite the Beat” co-written with Prince. On the Time’s third album, Ice Cream Castle, Johnson contributed to the hit singles “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”, which were helped by the popularity of the Purple Rain film.
However, at the height of the Time’s popularity following Purple Rain, following the departure of Morris Day, Johnson left the band and with the help of Manager Owen Husney signed a solo deal with A&M Records in 1984 and released Jesse Johnson’s Revue the following year. This album featured two other former members of the Time in Johnson’s backing band, keyboardist Mark Cardenas and bassist Jerry Hubbard. Three songs were released from the album: “Be Your Man”, “Can You Help Me” and “I Want My Girl”, a slow song about a fateful relationship. Then came the funk non-album outing “Free World”. His second album Shockadelica was released in 1986 containing the hit single “Crazay”, a duet with Sly Stone, and his third album Every Shade of Love followed in 1988.
4. Susannah Melvoin was best known for her association with Prince in the mid-1980’s.
Susannah got her start working with Prince in the mid-1980s during sister Wendy’s stint with The Revolution. During this period, she was tapped to be a joint lead vocalist of one of Prince’s side projects, The Family. Prince wrote The Family’s 1985 song, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, about Melvoin. The song charted when Sinéad O’Connor covered it in 1990.
Later, she joined the expanded line-up of The Revolution, adding backing vocals to Parade, including the 1986 single “Anotherloverholenyohead”. She designed the Dream Factory jacket, and, in addition to Wendy & Lisa of The Revolution, received a credit on Sign o’ the Times (she co-wrote the song “Starfish and Coffee”).
Melvoin was engaged to Prince, and during their relationship he wrote several songs about her.
3. Sheila E. is an percussionist & singer, who’s career began in the mid-1970s as a percussionist and singer for The George Duke Band
Prince met Sheila E. at a concert in 1978, when she was performing with her father. After the show he met her and told her that he and his bassist Andre Cymone “were just fighting about which one of us would be the first to be your husband.” He also vowed that one day she would join his band. The two would eventually join forces during the Purple Rain recording sessions. She provided vocals on the B-side to “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Erotic City” in 1984. Though taken under Prince’s wing, she proved to be a successful artist in her own right.
In June 1984, she released her debut album The Glamorous Life. The album’s title-track single “The Glamorous Life” peaked at number 7 the Hot 100 and also topped the dance charts for two weeks in August 1984. The video for the song would bring three MTV Award nominations for Best Female Video, Best New Artist, and Best Choreography. She also received two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female. Her second single “The Belle of St. Mark” charted at number 34 on Billboard Hot 100. She also toured as the opening act for Prince’s Purple Rain Tour and the duo simultaneously began a brief romantic relationship, while Prince was still seeing Susannah Melvoin, twin sister of The Revolution band member, Wendy Melvoin. They would later become briefly engaged in the late ’80s, during Prince’s Lovesexy Tour.
In 1985, she released Romance 1600. The lead single “Sister Fate” peaked at number 36 on the R&B charts. The album’s second single “A Love Bizarre” became her signature song, peaking at number 11 the Hot 100 and also topped the dance charts. The non-album track “Holly Rock” made its way to live shows and into the film Krush Groove. Sheila later served as Prince’s drummer and musical director in his band during the tours from 1987 to 1989. In July 1986, her self-titled album Sheila E. was released. The ballad single “Hold Me” peaked at number 3 on R&B charts. She appeared in four films, Krush Groove with Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J and Blair Underwood in 1985, Prince’s concert film, Sign “O” the Times in 1987.
2. The Time is a musical group that was created in Minneapolis in 1981 by Prince.
The Time has been a part of the formation of the Minneapolis sound, featuring a mix of soul music and dance music with funk, rock n roll, and more. Led by singer-songwriter Morris Day, the band members are known for having been close Prince associates, and are arguably the most successful artists who have worked with him, achieving particular popularity with R&B fans with tracks such as “Jerk Out” and “Jungle Love”.
Prince decided to put together a pop-funk group that would serve as an outlet for material in the vein of his own early albums, while he explored other genres and styles in his own career.
In 1981, Prince had built The Time out of an existing Minneapolis funk/R&B unit, Flyte Tyme, which featured Cynthia Johnson on lead vocals and sax, Anton (Tony) Johnson on guitar, David Eiland on saxophone, Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, and Terry Lewis on bass. To the last four were added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a lead singer and childhood friend named Morris Day, and Jerome Benton who was a promoter drawn from another local band called “Enterprise”, who became Day’s comic foil.
The Time went on to release four albums, consisting of jammy, rock-infused 1980s funk, generally light and humorous in tone, strongly influenced by Parliament, James Brown and Sly Stone. Although they scored numerous hits during the early 1980s, including “The Bird”, “Jungle Love”, “777-9311”, “Get It Up”, “Gigolos Get Lonely Too”, “The Walk” and “Cool”, mostly on the R&B charts.
1. The Revolution were a rock band formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota and assembled in 1979 by Prince. Although widely associated with rock music, the band’s sound incorporated rhythm and blues, pop, funk, and psychedelia elements
When Prince formed his backing band after the release of his first album, he followed in the footsteps of one of his idols, Sly Stone, by creating a multi-racial, multi-gendered musical ensemble. The band initially consisted of:
Dez Dickerson on guitar
Andre Cymone on bass guitar
Bobby Z. on drums and percussion
Gayle Chapman on keyboards
Matt Fink on keyboards
On the next two tours following the Prince Tour, the band underwent two line-up changes. Gayle Chapman, who had strong religious beliefs as a member of The Way, quit the band in 1980. The end came when she told Prince she planned to go on a trip with her Way group, but Prince wanted her to commit to some short-noticed rehearsals instead. After a long argument, Chapman quit the group to be replaced by Lisa Coleman.
The following year, after the Dirty Mind Tour, bass guitarist André Cymone would leave the band. Cymone, whose family gave Prince a home after he left his father’s house, left over a number of grievances with Prince—little input in the studio, he wasn’t getting credit for his contributions to Prince’s music, and in general his desire to start his own career—and would have bitter feelings toward Prince as he later claimed that Prince stole many of his ideas that were used for the Time and that he created the bassline for Controversy‘s “Do Me, Baby” Ultimately, Cymone was replaced by Mark Brown, renamed Brownmark by Prince. Coleman was usually only identified by her first name, while Fink started wearing surgical scrubs on stage and became known as “Doctor” Fink. Fink originally wore a black- and white-striped prison jumpsuit. However, a member of Rick James’ band was doing the same thing and not wanting to copy that, Prince asked Fink, “Do you have any other ideas?” Fink said, “What about a doctor’s outfit?” Prince loved the idea, and thus was born Doctor Fink.
From 1982–1983, when the band was almost identified as the Revolution, it consisted of:
Prince on lead vocals, guitar, and piano
Dez Dickerson on guitar
Brown Mark on bass
Bobby Z. on drums and percussion
Lisa Coleman on keyboards and piano
Matt Fink on keyboards
JJ on vocals
Prince and The Revolution’s best-selling album, Purple Rain, produced by Prince and The Revolution themselves, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 knocking Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. from the number one spot. Released at the end of June 1984, the album featured the singles “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, “I Would Die 4 U”, and “Take Me with U”. All the singles had accompanying music videos (all of which included clips from their relative scenes in the movie) and all charted on the Billboard Hot 100, but the first four peaked within the top 10 while “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” topped the chart. “When Doves Cry” would become the most successful single from Purple Rain at the time of its release on the pop charts, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Dance and R&B chart.
The song “Purple Rain” won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. The album spent 24 weeks at number one and would eventually be certified thirteen times platinum in the United States, six times platinum in Canada and two times platinum in the United Kingdom. Purple Rain would become the first official appearance of The Revolution.
The Revolution Expansion (1985–1986)
In 1985, members of the then soon-to-be-defunct R&B/pop group The Family (which, in turn, included former members of another disbanded Prince-associated group, The Time) joined The Revolution, along with people from Sheila E.’s band. The “Counter-Revolution” line-up:
Prince on lead vocals, guitar, and piano
Wendy Melvoin on guitar and vocals
Brown Mark on bass guitar and vocals
Bobby Z. on drums
Lisa Coleman on keyboards, piano and vocal
Matt Fink on keyboards and vocals
Susannah Melvoin on backing vocals
Eric Leeds on saxophone
Matt “Atlanta Bliss” Blistan on trumpet
Jerome Benton, Wally Safford and Greg Brooks as dancers/vocalists/comic foils (known as The Bodyguards)
The band officially disbanded in 1986 after the Hit n Run – Parade Tour, which supported Parade, the soundtrack for Under the Cherry Moon. Following Prince’s death in 2016, the band announced reunion shows.