SAUSALITO (KCBS) – Legendary music superstar Prince died unexpectedly Thursday morning at the age of 57, weeks after playing three instantly sold-out solo shows in Oakland. Little remembered, he recorded his first studio album in the Bay Area.
He was just 19 years old, newly signed to Warner Brothers, when he recorded “For You” at the old Record Plant Studios in Sausalito. That album launched his extraordinary career.
KCBS engineer Brian Tonneson worked for Prince at his Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis and said the 5 foot 2 Prince Rogers Nelson was a dynamo with virtually any instrument in his hand.
• IMAGES: Prince Through The Years
“He was rather diminutive, but not as a performer. As a performer, he was 9 feet, 15 inches tall. He was outrageous,” Tonneson recalled.
A virtuoso guitarist, a flamboyant dancer, singer with extraordinary range, Prince’s late night club shows in San Francisco were the stuff of legend. Ted Myer saw some of those shows, later met Prince at parties and working in the advertising production business.
“Very quiet, kind subdued gentleman. He was just one of those guys who was just a complete professional, a perfectionist and he never settled,” Myer said.
The building that housed the Record Plant is no longer a recording studio. It has since transformed into Harmonia, a wellness and social club that features yoga and music. Jennifer Adler, the CEO of Harmonia, is well aware of the history behind the address.
“Sly and the Family Stone had their space here. Rumors was produced here. Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin,” said Adler. “I’m honored every day to be in this space that’s filled with such creative energy and I think everyone that works here and we’ve done everything we can to bring back the musical energy to this space.”
During the recording session, Prince rented a home overlooking the Bay in Corte Madera. He lived there from October through December 1977 in what would be the first of many stays in the Bay Area.
Owners of Harmonia say they’re planning a tribute to Prince in the coming weeks.
Those lucky enough to have seen him last month in Oakland are left with memories of an extraordinary performer.