Deep in CBS Minnesota’s video archives, lay a piece of footage that would prove to be iconic – once it was unearthed 52 years after it was filmed. The station, WCCO, was covering the Minnesota Public School teacher strike in 1970, and a reporter interviewed kids as teachers picketed. One of those kids may look familiar – because he grew up to be a music legend.
WCCO Production Manager Matt Liddy found out about the restored footage and decided to screen it. «I grew up in Minneapolis, so all I cared about was looking at cool old buildings from the place I grew up. Did I recognize my old school? Did I recognize any landmarks?» Liddy said.
What he saw was a little Prince Rogers Nelson. «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.
After fixing the audio, the WCCO team was able to hear the boy speak after being asked about the teacher strike. «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,» he said.
He appeared to be 10 years old and appeared to be none other than the famed musician who later became known just by his first name. But the reporter didn’t ask the boy for his name on camera. «We did not get him saying ‘I’m Prince Nelson,'» Liddy said.
WCCO began investigating. They found Prince’s fifth-grade photo online. He looked similar to the boy in the video, but the news team brought in professional historian and archeologist Kristen Zschomler, who is also a fan of the music icon.
«They called him Skipper,» she said. «I’ve written a big document sort of outlining his historic journey from Minneapolis’ Northside to Paisley Park and the world.» Zschomler’s document is more than 100 pages long.
While videos of Prince as pre-teen are hard to find, Zschomler said that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. When she watched the old WCCO video, she gasped.
«I think that’s him, definitely. Oh my gosh. Yeah, I think that’s definitely Prince,» Zschomler said. «This definitely looks like Lincoln Junior High School where he would have been attending school in April of 1970.»
Zschomler had a sixth-grade picture of Prince, which matched the boy in the video.
While she said the boy’s «mannerisms and his eyes and everything» looked like the artist we know as Prince, an old childhood friend was called in to help confirm.
«We go far back as kindergarten at John Hay Elementary in north Minneapolis,» said Terrance Jackson, Prince’s former neighbor and bandmate. He took a look at the old footage.
«Oh my God, that’s Kitchen,» Jackson exclaimed, recognizing Ronnie Kitchen, another boy who gave an interview back in 1970. «That is Prince! Standing right there with the hat on, right? That’s Skipper! Oh my God!»
WCCO says Jackson was giddy with laughter, then tear tearful. «I am like blown away. I’m totally blown away,» he said.
His wife, Rhoda, who grew up with them, also recognized the 11-year-old boy as Prince. «It’s just amazing to see him, that small, that young, and hear his voice,» Rhoda said.
Jackson said at that age, Prince «was already playing guitar and keys by then, phenomenally.» «That’s Prince, aka Skipper to the Northside,» Jackson said.
Prince went on to write and record hits like «Purple Rain» and «When Doves Cry» and was nominated for 38 Grammys – winning seven. Even as his fame skyrocketed, Prince remained loyal to the Twin Cities, creating a compound, Paisley Park, that served as home and studio in Minnesota.
Prince died at Paisley Park in 2016 at age 57.