For the last 52 years, WCCO Minneapolis’ film archives had footage of an 11-year-old Prince being interviewed about the Minneapolis Public Schools teacher’s strike in April 1970. Up until now, nobody had seen it. Now, fans of His Royal Badness get another great piece of history from this music icon.
According to WCCO, Matt Liddy, a production manager at the local TV station, was going through footage in the film archives to give some context to local viewers about the teacher’s strike in Minneapolis because one just took place a month ago in the same area.
He discovered 13 minutes of film from 1970 and decided to give it a peek. He wanted to see if he recognized old buildings and landmarks from the area he grew up in. But, what he found was something rarer than he expected.
His curiosity turned into a discovery when he saw a reporter interviewing kids as teachers picketed in the background next to school. And there was one young boy in particular who answered a question that left Liddy speechless.
“I immediately just went out to the newsroom and started showing people and saying, ‘I’m not gonna tell you who I think this is, but who do you think this is?’ And every single person [said] ‘Prince,’” Liddy said.
We didn’t have the right equipment to hear the film. A specialist helped us extract the audio. We then heard the boy speak after getting asked about the teachers striking. With a smile as his friends surrounded him, the boy who looked to be around 10 years old said: “I think they should get a better education too cause, um, and I think they should get some more money cause they work, they be working extra hours for us and all that stuff.”
It sure looked like child version of Prince Nelson, the Minneapolis kid who would turn into an international music icon. But there was one issue. The reporter never asked for the kid’s name.
“We did not get him saying ‘I’m Prince Nelson,’” Liddy said.
If you take a look at the video, it looks like Prince. I mean, I think it looks like Prince but the TV station needed confirmation.
As a result, WCCO reporter Jeff Wagner went on a manhunt to find one of the childhood friends of the Purple Rain legend to confirm that it was Prince as an 11-year-old.
Wagner searched for Ronnie Kitchen, the boy who spoke before Prince in the interview. The numbers and addresses that he found were no good, so he had to get the help of an expert, according to WCCO.
Kristen Zschomler, a historian and archeologist who is an expert on landmarks in Minneapolis and a Prince stan, came to the rescue to assist Wagner with his investigation.
She thought it was “Skipper,” Prince’s nickname back in the day. But she also noticed in the background of the interview what looked like Lincoln Junior High School, the school he would have been attending in April 1970, according to WCCO.
She also showed Wagner a picture of Prince in sixth grade the same year the strike occurred and the hairstyle looked the same.
But, it still wasn’t good enough; they needed someone who knew Prince when he was that age. So Zschomler put them in contact with Terrance Jackson, a childhood friend of Prince.
More from WCCO:
“We go far back as kindergarten at John Hay Elementary in north Minneapolis,” Jackson said.
He’s a childhood friend and former neighbor who was also in Prince’s first band, Grand Central, when they were teenagers.
“Oh my God, that’s Kitchen,” Jackson exclaimed as the video began, immediately recognizing Ronnie Kitchen as a teenager. “That is Prince! Standing right there with the hat on, right? That’s Skipper! Oh my God!”
He was giddy with laughter. Then Prince began to speak. Jackson grew quiet, only saying “wow” a few times softly. By the end of the video, he was wiping tears from his eyes and laughing again.
“I am like blown away. I’m totally blown away,” he said, as the memories from their childhood flooded out.
“He was already playing guitar and keys by then, phenomenally,” Jackson said. “Music became our sport. Because he was athletic, I was athletic, but we wanted to compete musically.”
WCCO solved the mystery. Even decades later, we’re still learning new things about The Artist.