Deep in CBS Minnesota’s video archives lies footage that would prove iconic – once it was unearthed 52 years after it was filmed. In 1970, the station, WCCO, was covering the Minnesota Public School Teachers’ Strike and a reporter interviewed children as teachers picketed. One of these children may seem familiar, as he grew up to be a music legend.
WCCO production manager Matt Liddy discovered the restored footage and decided to screen it. “I grew up in Minneapolis, so all I cared about was looking at the cool old buildings where I grew up. Did I recognize my old school? landmark?” Liddy said.
What he saw was a little Prince Rogers Nelson. “I immediately went to the newsroom and started showing people and saying, ‘I’m not going to tell you who I think it is, but who do you think it is? And every person [said] ‘Prince,'” Liddy said.
After fixing the audio, the WCCO team could hear the boy speaking after being asked about the teachers’ strike. “I think they should also have a better education because, uh, and I think they should have a little bit more money because they’re working, they’re working overtime for us and all that,” said said the child.
He appeared to be around 10 years old and looked a lot like a younger version of the famous musician who later became known only by his first name. But the reporter did not ask the boy his name on camera. “We didn’t make him say ‘I’m Prince Nelson,'” Liddy said.
WCCO began to investigate. They found Prince’s fourth-grade class photo online. He looked like the boy in the video, but the press team brought in professional historian and archaeologist Kristen Zschomler, who is also a fan of the music icon.
“They called him Skipper,” she said, referring to Prince’s childhood nickname. “I wrote a big document kind of describing his historic journey from the Northside of Minneapolis to Paisley Park and the world.” Zschomler’s document is over 100 pages.
Although videos of Prince as a pre-teen are hard to find, Zschomler said that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. When she watched the old WCCO video, she gasped.
“I think it’s definitely him. Oh my God. Yeah, I think it’s definitely Prince,” Zschomler said. “It definitely looks like Lincoln Junior High School where he would have attended school in April 1970.”
Zschomler had a picture of Prince in sixth grade, which appeared to match the boy in the video.
While she said the “boy’s mannerisms and his eyes and everything” resembled the entertainer we know as Prince, an old childhood friend was called in to help confirm.
“We go back to kindergarten at John Hay Elementary in north Minneapolis,” Terrance Jackson, Prince’s former neighbor and teammate, told the station. He looked at the old pictures.
“Oh my God, it’s Kitchen,” exclaimed Jackson, recognizing Ronnie Kitchen, another boy who had given an interview in 1970. “It’s Prince! Standing right there with the hat, right? no? It’s Skipper! Oh my God!”
In the WCCO interview, Jackson was giddy with laughter, then in tears. “I’m like blown away. I’m totally blown away,” he said.
His wife, Rhoda, who grew up with them, also recognized the 11-year-old boy as Prince. “It’s just amazing to see him, so small, so young, and hear his voice,” Rhoda said.
Jackson said that at that age, Prince was “already playing guitar and keyboards, phenomenally.” “It’s Prince, aka Skipper from the Northside,” Jackson said.
Prince went on to write and record hits like “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” and was nominated for 38 Grammys, winning seven. Even as his fame skyrocketed, Prince remained loyal to the Twin Cities, creating a complex , Paisley Park, which served as a home and studio in Minnesota.
Prince died in Paisley Park in 2016 aged 57.