Prince stories tend to sound like fairy tales. Encounters with the music legend are recalled like unicorn sightings. One minute, you’re just going about your day, and then you turn a corner and, boom, there he is: glistening and surrounded by birds.
Eddie Murphy’s older brother, Charlie Murphy, told perhaps the most famous Prince story ever on Chappelle's Show. It involved basketball and pancakes. Questlove has a pretty great one too.
But in our own backyard, another tale of a magical Prince encounter has emerged from Miami Latin ensemble Suénalo. Carlos "Kako" Guzmán, Suénalo’s bassist, remembers the night. It was 2007, and he and his bandmates were playing their regular show at Jazid on Miami Beach, a gig they enjoyed for about seven years. At the end of a song, the manager walks over to the band. “Listen, somebody told me Prince is around and he might stop by,” she said.
“We didn’t believe it,” Guzmán says. So the band kept playing. A couple of songs later, they spotted a limo rolling up. It parked and a single bodyguard, dressed in a black suit, walked through the door.
He took a lap through Jazid, which didn’t take much time at all considering the size of the room (Guzmán estimates about 70 people were in the club that night). The bodyguard went upstairs, came back down, looked around, and left.
Five minutes went by and two bodyguards walked back in the door. Behind them was Prince, dressed in a black velvet vest, and a beautiful woman at his side who was, for no apparent reason, holding a rose in her mouth. Guzmán did his best not to question it.
“I was like, OK, well I guess it’s Prince," he recalls.
Everyone tried not to stare as Prince and his entourage headed up the stairs, where there was only a pool table and a bar. Prince stayed up there for a few songs before coming down and nabbing a spot in the corner of the room.
Suénalo went on with the set, happily playing for their newfound listener, when, in the middle of the band’s song “Manguera,” a bodyguard approached guitarist Gerard Glecer.
“Prince would like to jam,” he said.
Almost as quickly as Glecer could get his guitar off his shoulder, Prince was onstage. Prince asked Glecer where the fuzz panel was (it’s a distortion pedal for the guitar). Those would be the only words he uttered to the band the entire night.
Once situated, Prince proceeded to take a two-minute solo in front of a stunned Jazid. “The bodyguards were telling people not to take pictures,” Guzmán says. Indeed, if you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see one bodyguard staring into the camera like it just called his mother fat.
And then, just like that, it was over. Prince wordlessly handed Glecer back his guitar and left. “Then he stopped and everybody was frozen. We couldn’t believe what the hell Prince was doing there. This wasn’t a major club. This was a tiny hole with 70 people,” he says.
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Guzmán doesn’t remember Prince’s solo being particularly earth-shattering. “It wasn’t like the solo of his lifetime… He has a very specific sound to his soloing — a very high gain with a lot of mids, and he usually has a wah-wah effect,” he says. “I think he was struggling a little bit with the sound for a second. It was not a spectacular solo that made everybody melt."
Still, it was Prince. “It was pretty surreal. Everybody was just mouth open watching the whole thing… He was really tiny, really short. You don’t really realize the size of a person until you see them.”
Guzmán later learned that Prince had been stopping by other venues around town to watch bands. He heard Prince popped into Hoy Como Ayer and saw the Spam Allstars (although he didn’t jam with them).
The rumor Guzmán was later told was that Prince was scouting bands for a new Latin venue he planned to open in Vegas. Though, nobody from Prince’s camp ever got in touch with Suénalo. The lone photo from the night was sent to the band a few months after the incident. Guzmán still isn’t quite sure who took it.