WCCO Minneapolis recently struck gold when an employee went to pull archival footage for a story about local teachers’ strike.
Production Manager Matt Liddy was looking at features of local landmarks in a 52-year-old film reel when he saw what he believed was a familiar face. Without revealing his guess, he showed the image of a young boy to his co-workers and asked them who it looked like. They all had the same answer: “Prince.”
The timeframe and the boy’s apparent age seemed to line up with the life of the then-Prince Rogers Nelson, who grew up in Minneapolis. But as famous as the future superstar would become, there is still very little video that documents his childhood, according to one superfan interviewed by WCCO.
Kristen Zschomler is a historian and archeologist who researches Twin Cities landmarks. She also happens to be a Prince fan who has documented the artist’s “journey from Minneapolis’ Northside to Paisley Park and the world.”
When asked about the available documentation of the 7-time Grammy winner’s early days Zschomler said, “As far as video, I am not familiar with any. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist but I’m not familiar with any.”
In fact, the earliest photo most people may have seen of the superstar is likely to be his junior high basketball picture, which has circulated widely on social media but was taken years after the WCCO footage.
While Zschomler could not ID the boy in the 1970 video with absolute certainty, comparing it with photos of Prince at the time, she said she felt strongly it was the musician.
Many local TV stations, pinched for funding and happy with presenting stories as “mysteries” rather than divining facts, would have stopped there. But CBS owned-and-operated WCCO did not.
Reporter Jeff Wagner tracked down one of the Purple Rain legend’s childhood friends, Terrance Jackson, a neighbor who went to kindergarten with the superstar and was in his first band, Grand Central.
“Oh my God, that’s Kitchen,” Jackson said as the video began, recognizing their friend Ronnie Kitchen as a teenager. Then, as the boy in question came into frame he exclaimed, “That is Prince! Standing right there with the hat on, right? That’s Skipper! Oh my God!”
Skipper, it turns out, was the 11-year-old Prince’s nickname.
The station actually interviewed the boy in question about the 1970 teachers’ strike — though it did not get his name — and, after some technical wrangling, Wagner got the audio to work. He played it for Jackson, who started crying as he heard his now-deceased childhood friend’s voice.
In the video itself, a reporter asks young Skipper, “Are most of the kids in favor of the picketing?”
“Yep,” he responds laconically.
“How come?” asks the reporter.
“I think they should get some more money ’cause they work extra hours for us and all that stuff,” says the boy who, as he speaks gives the mischievous sideways glance at his companions and the sly smile that were among Prince’s trademarks later in life.
Watching and listening to the video Jackson enthused, “I am like blown away. I’m totally blown away,” said Jackson. “He was already playing guitar and keys by then, phenomenally,” he continued. “Music became our sport. Because he was athletic, I was athletic, but we wanted to compete musically.”
“That’s Prince, aka Skipper to the Northside,” confirmed Jackson one final time, as if to dispel his own disbelief as much as the reporter’s.
SEE FOR YOURSELF: While unearthing footage from the 1970 Minneapolis teachers' strike, WCCO uncovered something precious — previously unseen footage of an 11-year-old Prince! | FULL STORY: https://t.co/dz7grOfpQW pic.twitter.com/UE32rCSMNt
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 4, 2022
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.