Since Prince wrote and produced almost all of the music for these artists, despite what was listed on the credits, this allowed him another creative outlet to get more of his music out in to the world. Some of these acts became somewhat successful while most only had a very brief moment in the spotlight.
Here are just a few of the artists that Prince helped introduce:
The Time was one of Prince's first and most successful acts as he assembled together a group of musicians from part of another Minneapolis funk band, Flyte Time that included Terry Lewis on bass, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards and drummer, "Jellybean" Johnson. He added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a childhood friend, Morris Day as the lead vocalist. Jerome Benton, a concert promoter was brought on board as part of a comic routine with Day during concerts.
Produced by Prince, "The Time", the group's self-titled debut was released in 1981 which featured rock-based r&b with a comedic edge and featured the hit songs, "Get It Up (Album Version)" "Girl" and "Cool".
By the second album, "What Time Is It?", due to a tense rivalry with Prince and his band during concert tours, a frustration with a lack of creative input and feeling underpaid for their contribution, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Monte Moir decided to leave The Time. They went on to work together writing and producing for other artists including, most famously, Janet Jackson.
Prince replaced them with Mark Cardenas and Paul Peterson on keyboards and Jerry Hubbard on bass and this new line-up was featured in the film, "Purple Rain" and recorded a third album "Ice Cream Castle" together.
Because of the success of the movie, Morris Day felt it was time to leave the group to pursue a solo career in 1984 and Jesse Johnson soon followed, taking with him Cardenas and Hubbard. This effectively brought an end to The Time and Prince placed the remaining members in to a new group called The Family in 1985.
The original members reassembled in 1990 for Prince's film, "Graffiti Bridge" and recorded another album together, "Pandemonium" but it became a short-lived reunion as The Time broke-up once again due to a clash of egos and in-fighting.
"Get It Up" - The Time
Prince originally envisioned an all-female singing group that would perform in lingerie and he would call them, "The Hookers". He put together his personal assistant, Jamie Shoop, Brenda Bennett who was the wife of his set designer and Susan Moonsie who was his girlfriend at the time.
The trio recorded a few demos but then Prince met Denise Matthews, a Canadian nude model and B-movie actress. He was so captivated by her that he decided to build the group around her and Shoop was dismissed. Prince wanted to rename Denise, "Vagina" but to be pronounced va-GEE-na. She declined but came up with her own name, "Vanity".
The group became Vanity 6, with the "6" to apparently stand for the number of breasts amongst the ladies, and they released their self-titled album, "Vanity 6" in 1982. The biggest single from the album was "Nasty Girl" but due to the sexual lyrics, the song met resistance from pop radio but it managed to climb to the top ten of the r&b and dance charts.
Vanity was preparing to record the group's next album and do a part written for her in Prince's upcoming film, "Purple Rain" when she decided to leave Vanity 6. She went on to sign with Motown Records as well as perform in some feature films including "Action Jackson" and "The Last Dragon". After years of drug abuse, Vanity got sober, became born-again, renounced her sinful past and is currently a Christian preacher.
"Nasty Girl" - Vanity 6
Here is a music video of the ladies performing the song, "He's So Dull":
After Vanity abruptly left the singing group, Vanity 6, Prince was in search of a replacement. He found Patricia Kotero, an aspiring singer and actress. He named her, "Apollonia" and the trio became known as Apollonia 6. She was given a role in the film, "Purple Rain" and sang a duet with Prince for the soundtrack on the song, "Take Me With U".
Apollonia 6 released their only album in 1984 to tie in with the film and the only notable song was "Sex Shooter" which was featured in "Purple Rain". The group soon disbanded with Apollonia going on to record a solo album in 1988 and appeared on the television show, "Falcon Crest" and some low budget movies.
"Sex Shooter" - Apollonia 6
Sheila Escovedo is the daughter of famed percussionist, Pete and has followed in his footsteps but she also plays the tuba and guitar. Sheila met Prince in 1978 during one of her father's concerts and he told her that they should work together one day.
That didn't happen, however, until 1983 during the recording of the "Purple Rain" soundtrack where she added vocals to the song, "Erotic City". That lead to him writing and producing her first solo album, "The Glamorous Life" in 1984. The title song, which was originally intended for the aborted Apollonia 6 follow-up album, became a top ten hit for her and reaching number one on the dance charts. This was her biggest hit although she had a top twenty hit with "A Love Bizarre" from her second album, "Romance 1600" in 1985.
Sheila E. has released six albums to date but she is now best known as one of the best percussionists working today and she has worked with a wide spectrum of musical artists including Diana Ross, Ringo Starr, Gloria Estefan, Marvin Gaye, Carlos Santana and just recently with Marc Anthony on this past season finale of "American Idol".
"The Glamorous Life" - Sheila E.
After The Time disbanded, Prince created a new band called The Family. It consisted of former Time members, keyboardist, Paul Peterson who was renamed, St. Paul and became the lead singer, Jerome Benton and Jellybean Johnson still on drums. Prince added Eric Leeds, a member of his band, The Revolution, on saxophone and his girlfriend at the time, Susannah Melvoin, the twin sister of Wendy (of Wendy & Lisa) as a vocalist and keyboardist.
"The Family" was released in 1985 and much like The Time albums, Prince wrote, performed and produced all of the tracks and simply later added the vocals of St. Paul and Susannah. The song, "The Screams of Passion" became a modest hit for the band but the album also featured the first version of the song, "Nothing Compares 2 U" which would later become a worldwide smash for Sinead O'Connor in 1990.
"The Screams Of Passion" - The Family