Prince, Montalbo and Juice Get Their ‘Groove On’
Prince had a soft spot in his heart for “Sweet Thing” by Rufus, performing the song on numerous occasions, sometimes with Chaka Khan. A fan favorite is an acoustic version he played on MTV in 2004.
And one could also argue the signature, shimmering opening guitar line is recalled on “Get Yo Groove On” from the 1996 Emancipation record. Sure, it’s not the same note pattern, but imagine the “Sweet Thing” riff sped up, then listen to the guitar kick in on “Groove” and try to deny the similarity.
Hear Prince Perform "Get Yo Groove On"
The title of “Get Yo Groove On,” though, is planted firmly in the mid-'90s; the slang could be found everywhere from Montell Jordan’s biggest hit to an episode of Martin. And with the latter’s rumored return to TV, ‘90s nostalgia is as hot as ever, so why not give “Groove” some more plays this weekend?
The skit running throughout the song makes the listen worthwhile. Smith and guitarist Kat Dyson pretend to be in a club dodging annoying men (“What yo name is? Come here,” Prince says). And then Montalbo Stewart shows up.
“Is Juice in there?” Stewart asks. “You know, Big Julius.”
A recurring character in Prince and his band the NPG’s music, Stewart is portrayed by Prince’s longtime keyboardist Morris Hayes.
Hayes, whom Prince wanted to do comedy, discussed Stewart in an interview on the Peach & Black Podcast.
“Anywhere he could get that [character] in, he just liked to have it in,” Hayes said.
Even funnier than Stewart was Prince portraying a square guy with a southern accent getting turned away from the club for violating the dress code. “What you mean?” Prince drawls. “It don’t take Stevie Wonder to see I got on the right clothes. … Hell, I could buy every one of you.”
“We laughed the whole time,” Dyson recalled of the recording process. “He was always making jokes and then he would crack himself up. … There was a lot of joy.”
Working with Prince was also a challenge for Dyson, who played with him from 1996 to 1998, and then returned in 2005 for a gig at the NAACP Awards. “As a guitar player, I was shadowing him to give support,” she said. “So you almost have to empty yourself out to do that. I was pretty much playing what he told me to play as he told me to play it.”
Dyson was also required to learn about 130 songs for shows.
She can be seen in a rare live performance of “Get Yo Groove On” on MTV. Prince utilizes a different vocal delivery, and shows off some impressive dance moves and keytar work.
Watch Prince Perform "Get Yo Groove On"
So there you have it: Some musical analysis, character studies and insider quotes about a Prince deep cut, over 20 years later. But one question still remains: Where is Juice?
Erica Thompson is a journalist in Columbus, Ohio. She is currently writing a book on Prince’s spiritual journey and the spiritual themes in his music, which was the source of the interview with Dyson. Keep up with the project at A Purple Day in December.