Sunday, April 18, 2021

Billy Sparks Remembers His Friend Prince

Billy Sparls purple rain - screenshot
Billy Sparls and Prince in ‘Purple Rain’ scene

*Fans of Prince, the late iconic rock-soul-funk-R&B singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist, will surely remember “The Purple One’s” classic 1984 film “Purple Rain.”

The movie’s starring cast was Prince, Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Clarence Williams II, Apollonia, The Revolution Band, and Billy Sparks.

Filmgoers will recall that Billy Sparks played the character “Billy” in the movie, who continuously called Prince “The Kid.”

Billy was the pudgy, big-eyeglass-wearing Minneapolis owner of First Avenue, the nightclub where the film’s electrifying musical performances occurred.

In real life, Sparks is a well-known record and concert promoter, a service he performed for Prince for more than a decade.  The two became good friends and Sparks continued to call Prince “The Kid.” Following Prince’s death in April of 2016, Sparks, in two exclusive radio interviews, explained the events that led up to meeting Prince in 1980.

“Some friends were managing Earth, Wind & Fire,” Sparks told radio personality E.J. Greig. “They (the friends) were offered an opportunity to manage Prince  but they didn’t know that much about him.  He had a new album coming out that he’d been working on and they said, ‘Well, we just got the cassette, can you take it in and listen to it?’  They called me the next morning and said, ‘Well what did you   think?’ ”  I said, “You should have signed this kid up yesterday.”

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Sparks soon met Prince in Los Angeles and recalled the hilarious banter between the two of them.

“We had a few laughs,” recalled Sparks.  “Prince said, ‘I kinda like you, you’re a fat guy but you have a lotta energy.  You’re the fattest energy guy I’ve ever seen in my life.’ ”

“Well, I’m like Jackie Gleason here baby…I’m rockin’ and rollin’,” Sparks said.  “That started and then it just blossomed into a pretty cool relationship for many, many years.”

While the two men maintained a solid friendship, Prince ultimately fired Sparks as his record and concert promoter. Sparks told radio personality Tom Joyner the reason.

“He got a lil’ frustrated with me,” said Sparks, who is currently a concert promoter, working with many artists, including Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton,  “Prince told me I couldn’t bust those records like I used to.”

Sparks disagreed, but the two, he said, parted in a cool manner.  Sparks said he never held a grudge against Prince and the two men remained friends afterwards.

 

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