Dozens and dozens of musicians served time in Prince’s bands over the course of his four-decade-long career, but none performed with him longer than keyboardist Morris Hayes. The Arkansas native began his gradual ascent of the Prince ranks in the late 1980s, working with Revolution offshoot Mazarati, an incarnation of The Time and even Carmen Electra before attaining royalty in 1993. Hayes was in that role for the better part of 20 years, becoming such a close associate that Prince installed him in a house across from Paisley Park.
Nothing in that time was quite like Prince’s dazzling, rain-drenched halftime performance at Super Bowl XLI in Miami ten years ago. Few of the 75,000 people in the arena or the estimated 140 million television viewers are likely to forget that 12-minute set -- performed during a rainstorm -- which kicked off with “Let’s Go Crazy,” shifted quickly into “Baby I’m a Star,” then took a sharp turn into a quick covers medley: “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watchtower” and a big surprise, the Foo Fighters’ 2005 hit “Best of You." The set climaxed with a triumphant, downpour-spattered version of “Purple Rain,” during which a huge white screen was unfurled with Prince’s shadow projected onto it, and -- in some people’s opinion -- the silhouette of his symbol-shaped guitar resembled a giant phallus, setting off a predictable explosion of righteous right-wing fury that was ultimately eclipsed by the rapturous reviews of the performance. In virtually every poll or article published since then, Prince’s halftime show has been rated the best of all time.
Hayes has performed with many artists over the years -- Sheila E, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Lenny Kravitz, Maceo Parker, Elton John and Kanye West -- and his current projects include ongoing work with the NPG and new artists like Cobi, the EDM outfit Lordz Uv, and a forthcoming documentary called World Symphony for Peace in which he travels the world collaborating with local musicians. He’s also working on a book about his career called The Ticket. “I saw Prince and The Time on December 17, 1982 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas -- and I’ve had the ticket in my pocket ever since," he explains.