Pepé Willie grew up in music. As a teenager in Brooklyn, he was immersed in the R&B and soul scene of 1960s New York— rubbing elbows with top musicians and getting an up-close look at the music business. After moving to Minneapolis with his new bride in 1974, he quickly found his way into the vibrant Twin Cities music scene. Pepé’s wife also introduced him to her cousin, a young musician named Prince Rogers Nelson.
Pepé knew right away that the precocious teenager had extraordinary talent, and he set out to take Prince under his wing, educating him on the ins and outs of songwriting and music publishing. In 1975, Pepé took his cousin-in-law into the studio for a session with Pepé’s band, 94 East. This first professional recording of Prince proved to be a pivotal moment in the rise of an unparalleled musician.
In this autobiography, Pepé Willie describes his journey through the music industry and chronicles his experiences working alongside Prince, helping the rising star make his way in the business. Although largely unknown, Pepé Willie has had a deep impact on the local scene and offers a unique perspective into the world of music.
Pepé Willie is a musician and the founder of Pepé Music Inc. He was a mentor to many musicians and is considered one of the godfathers of the Minneapolis Sound. He was the first person to ever take Prince into a professional recording studio, and Pepé's own band, 94 East, was an integral player on the local music scene of the mid-1970s.
Tony Kiene is an author who has worked with several nonprofit and entertainment organizations in the Twin Cities. He writes two Prince-related columns: "Purple Music: Musings on the Minneapolis Sound" for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and "Alumni Spotlight: Stories from the Park"; for the PRN Alumni Foundation. Some of Kiene's other Prince content has appeared in Community Times, Insight News, and The Theology of Prince.
Clarence Collins is a singer, producer, and founder of the legendary R&B group Little Anthony and the Imperials. During their peak in the mid-60s, the Imperials appeared on a variety of television programs and performed live at clubs and venues around the world. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Collins currently lives in California.
- Format: Paperback, 368 pages, 40 b/w photos, index
- Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press (Sept.1, 2020)
- Category: Performing Arts, Biography