Remembering the Time Prince Crashed a Toronto Blues Club
"Do you mind if Prince plays your guitar?" The seemingly simple question came loaded with weight. Was this a real offer? Who is this mysterious person asking? And has anyone ever said no?
On July 6, 2002, John Daly, the editor of a Toronto business magazine by day and a blues guitarist by night, was tasked with giving an answer. “Sure,” he replied.
Prince had a unique bond with the city of Toronto. In the early '00s he was married to local philanthropist Manuela Testolini and the rock icon spent a lot of time in the city as a result of the relationship. Though the marriage would end in divorce, Prince’s romance with Toronto lived on.
"I love Toronto," the rocker stated during an interview with The Canadian Press. "It's cosmopolitan," he continued. "There's all sorts of different kinds of people everywhere you go in Toronto, there's all sorts of great music, great restaurants, great night spots that don't respond to a lot of American playlists and have playlists which I really dig. It's a real melting pot in every sense of the word."
Prince maintained a home in an upscale Toronto neighborhood called the Birdle Path. Over the years he was spotted at Raptors basketball games, concerts and, yes, even the occasional unannounced performance.
A story in the Toronto Star described the process that would typically precede a Prince appearance. "Prince's security calls ahead, checks things out, then the singer takes a low-key spot, either alone or with his wife, and sips coffee, Amaretto on ice or Merlot through a straw," the paper reported.
The scenario was similar that July 6 night at Blues on Bellair, a small club in the Toronto suburb of Yorkville. It was a bodyguard who initially asked Daly for permission to have Prince play. With the blessing given, the slightly-built rock star approached the stage. Daly was part of the band for Jerome Godboo, a local singer/harmonica player. Though Godboo was officially the night’s headliner, Prince became the main attraction.
Initially, the purple one elected to just be part of the group, joining Godboo and his crew on 12-bar blues jam session. After a short intermission, during which he chatted with his fellow musicians, Prince decided to keep playing.
As the band began their next set, the musical virtuoso took control. Prince launched into "a '70s-style epic" lasting more than 10 minutes, complete with soaring guitar parts, distortion effects and everything you’d expect from one of music’s most talented performers.
The band was in awe, especially 16-year-old Jordan Daly son of John, who was playing drums. "Well, that's it,” the teen exclaimed. “I'm retiring now."
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