Remember The Purple Rain Club Owner? See Who He Was To Prince In REAL Life!
The character of “Billy” the Minneapolis club owner of ‘The Ave.’ nightclub (which is an actual Minneapolis nightclub by the way), brought a ton of flavor to “Purple Rain.”
His real name is also Billy Sparks and he was not an actor nor entertainer at all, but just based on his natural swag alone, he was able to hold his own in a movie full of then movie newcomers, but still heavy-hitters nonetheless- Prince, Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Clarence Williams II, The Revolution band, Apollonia 6, just to name a few.
Billy pretty much flies under the radar at all times, but made that one exception for his his good friend, Prince in “Purple Rain.” Ever since then, we hadn’t heard much about the cat who yelled at Prince in the film and called him ‘the kid,’ and it wasn’t until Prince’s untimely passing that Billy decided to step into the spotlight to do a couple interviews with his two friends/radio personalities, Tom Joyner and E.J. Greig. These were two separate interviews, but we pulled some of the most interesting parts from both to share a few little known facts we never knew about Billy Sparks’ decades-long friendship with the Purple One, check it out below…
BILLY SPARKS ON WHY HIS FRIEND, PRINCE FIRED HIM
Tom Joyner: Prince has gone through a LOT of people on stage and behind the scenes but the one person who stayed with him his WHOLE career was Billy Sparks:
Billy Sparks: I was there Tom, but me and Prince [eventually] parted ways, he got a lil’ frustrated with me, told me I couldn’t bust those records like I used to, LOL. And I was like ‘Prince, c’mom on man, LOL.’ But you know he wanted to get play on regular stations and I tried to explain it to him like “Boss, let me explain something to you…this stuff today is different, it’s all about call-out research, you know. Guys like you and Michael [Jackson]…are two great talents but radio….is not like the old days man.’ So I said ‘Prince do you listen to radio *mocking Prince’s voice*: “I don’t listen to radio!” LOL, ‘Okay well how you gon’ battle if you don’t listen to the plan of action? LOL…nah, but we parted cool Tom.
PRINCE WANTED TO STAY RELEVANT IN TODAY’S MUSIC SCENE
Billy: Prince was king and sometimes he’d be frustrated about the records and I used say ‘Man, Prince, listen, on stage you can kill ’em, you have no equal o don’t even worry about it, you know? But uh, Prince…always liked competition and he wanted to stay relevant, you know?
HOW THEY MET
Billy tells E.J. Greig: I met him [Prince] back in 1980. Some friends of ours (from a very big agency at the time) were managing Earth, Wind & Fire. They 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?’ And I listened 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. A week after that, I was in L.A. and they called me and said ‘Hey, the kid is coming out, I want you to meet him and I met him and that was in ’80…
THE PRINCE JAB
Billy: [During that first meeting] We had a few laughs and 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’ LOL. And I said ‘Well I’m [like] Jackie Gleason here baby, I’m rockin’ and rollin, LOL.’ That started then and then it just blossomed into a pretty cool relationship for many, many years.
E.J. Greig: So you were there right from jump from him getting signed?
Billy Sparks:Yeah at the agency, now he had already did the “soft and Wet” album and this was his second album, “For You,” was getting ready to come out.
BILLY CALLED PRINCE ‘THE KID’ IN REAL LIFE
Billy: Yeah that’s kind of what we referred to him as, but in the movie he wanted to keep it that way and I thought it kept a kind of mystique, since nobody ever called him Prince so…that was kind of cool.
HOW BILLY ENDED UP IN “PURPLE RAIN”
Billy: It was real simple, I had never did any acting or anything like that…and Prince had called me [when] we were on the road for the 1999 Smoking Tour with Prince, Time, and Vanity 6. And he [said] ‘Hey man I got an idea, I wanna put you in this movie I’m doing.’ And I said ‘Hey man, no problem. […]I [went] to sound check one day and we were playing around, I had bought some white glasses and he [Prince] said ‘Man take those glasses…put ’em in a case and you’re gonna use those in the movie. We were laughing…so we just went for it and it was a win from there. I just did it and it all worked out. We never thought in a million years that that movie was going to be what it is. I mean, it’s still getting play and the movie has already grossed over $100 million…unfortunately his passing is really tipping it into another light”
DID BILLY SPARKS MIND NOT BEING IN PRINCE’S “UNDER the CHERRY MOON” MOVIE?
Well it (the “Cherry Moon” movie) was a lil’ different, a lil’ different, that’s all Billy: I’m gon’ say about that…LOL. [E.J.: I was looking for you in it] Nah I was cool, I was cool…LOL.
E.J.: I’m sorry for your loss Billy, I know you guys were close.
Billy: Hey man, we all gotta go…but Prince’s legacy will last forever man. For a long, long time people are gonna listen to Prince. He’s an iconic cat of today and of the future.
MUSIC ARTISTS BILLY SPARKS WORKS WITH TODAY
During the time of his interviews earlier this year, Billy was still in the concert promotion business and was working with Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton as well as several other popular R&B artists that he didn’t name.
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