RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Music icon Prince once crashed a fraternity party at N.C. State University – and played several songs in front of the stunned audience in 1980.
Prince died April 21 at the age of 57, a death that had Prince fans remembering the music and the man. Prince was known for his passion for music – and some Wolfpack students saw that first-hand one memorable night decades ago.
In 1980, Prince was an up-and-coming artist, but one still known to people who followed music. On Saturday, March 15, he opened at Raleigh’s Dorton Arena for the better known Rick James, who had hits with “You and I” and “Mary Jane” and, later, with “Super Freak.”
Prince was apparently staying that night at the circular Holiday Inn in downtown Raleigh. And that same night, N.C. State’s Sigma Pi fraternity was holding its spring formal in a ballroom downstairs.
The band playing for the fraternity went on break. And sure enough, Prince and his band walked in and asked if they could play.
“I’ve talked to people throughout the years and they were like, ‘Yeah, right,’” said Colby Warren, a Sigma Pi brother who was there. “But it really happened.”
Ken Nixon was there, too, and both Warren and Nixon were in awe when Prince and his band grabbed the instruments and began to play.
“There were some of us who were like, Oh my God!’” Warren said.
Warren said the difference between their band and Prince was astonishing, especially when seen in such an intimate setting.
“I was just blown away,” Warren said. “The thing I remember most is how well they played their instruments. It was a much richer, fuller sound.
“They made it so much more impactful.”
About 100 people were there as Prince played a handful of songs.
Afterward, Prince greeted some members of the fraternity.
“I went up afterwards and shook his hand,” Warren said. “He was pleasant – and short.”
And obviously gifted. Warren wasn’t surprised at all by the dramatic arc of Prince’s career. He saw that night, at N.C. State fraternity event, the brilliant ability of the young entertainer from Minneapolis.
“I was like, ‘That’s the future of rock and roll,’” Warren recalled.