Fans feeling gutted by the death of Prince are in that post-bombshell trance today, dialing up their favorite tracks while also trying to be productive. Good luck with that. If you’re looking for the deepest of deep cuts from the artist, who died Thursday at his Paisley Park compound, this could very well be it.
In 1976, an 18-year-old Prince Nelson was a hired gun on “Stone Lover,” the only song ever recorded by a Minneapolis band called Music, Love and Funk (or MLF). He plays guitar on the track, which was pressed to 45 in 1977 and now holds the distinction of being his first released recording.
The song was later included on Numero Group’s Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, a 2013 compilation of Twin Cities tracks. John Kirby of Numero Group tells Billboard that “technically, his first recording was a session called the Cookhouse Five” but those songs were not released until years later. “‘Stone Lover’ is the first issued recording of Prince,” he notes.
A funky track with a hard-driving horn section, slap-bass and a flute solo at the midway point, “Stone Lover” chugs along for over seven minutes. Prince is one of two guitarists listed in the liner notes, with Randy Barber the other. Their contributions weren’t virtuosic — no guitar solo, sadly — but you can hear shades of Nile Rodgers of Chic in their clean, melodic riffs.
Keen-eyed fans will spot that the bassist on “Stone Lover” was Sonny Thompson (or Sonny T.), who later reunited with Prince for several albums beginning with 1991’s “Diamonds and Pearls.”
Prince is said to have played on the song in order to raise money for a trip to New York City. A year after “Stone Lover,” Prince released his debut solo single “Soft and Wet.” By decade’s end he had his first hit with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and the rest is rock/pop/R&B/funk history.
Listen to “Stone Lover” (liner notes begin at 2:00):
Andrew Flanagan contributed reporting.