How Detroit helped launch Prince to superstardom

At the height of his 1980s fame, Prince rarely did radio interviews. But one night, shortly after performing to a sold-out crowd at Cobo Hall, the singer gave The Electrifying Mojo, Detroit’s mysterious and legendary disc jockey, an impromptu call.

Before MTV and music videos, radio was crucial to breaking new artists into the spotlight. The Detroit market, like markets in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, offered artists major platforms to be heard, and smaller markets would follow suit. At the nucleus of Detroit radio was Mojo, whose devoted listeners — the Midnight Funk Association — tuned in nightly for cutting-edge playlists.

Mojo is credited for making several artists popular among Detroit listeners, including introducing Motown to German techno artists like Kraftwerk, which later inspired a generation of budding Detroit techno artists and creating a genre. But he also broke Prince to the Motor City, being the first to give his early work airplay.

In 1986, after the Cobo show, Prince, who died today at age 57, called Mojo at the WJLB studios to thank him, and to thank Detroit listeners for their love over the years. “It went over pretty good, and I think it's 'cuz of you, and what you've done for us and…my thang. It's a good feeling,” said the Purple One.

"I had no idea he was going to call,” Mojo said in retrospect. “I had no list of questions or anything like that. First I talked to Billy Sparks [Prince’s road manager, and the nightclub owner in the film “Purple Rain”] and he said, 'Hey Mojo! Prince wants to talk to you. You got a minute?' I said, 'Do I have a minute? Give me a minute to make sure we have a tape on,' and Prince says, 'Hey Mojo! What's happening? This is Prince.' If I hadn't heard Billy Sparks' voice prior to that, I may have said, 'Yeah, right.'"


At the end of the interview, the musician was given an opportunity to share a few more parting words with Detroit, which he closed with kissing noises to the airwaves and the word “kiss.”

Listen to parts 1 and 2 of the interview below.

Here’s what other Detroit artists have shared about Prince’s passing.


Speechless R.I.P. Prince #TheBeautifulOne #ComputerBlue #PurpleRain #DovesCry

A photo posted by Miz Korona (@mizkorona) on Apr 21, 2016 at 10:39am PDT

Facebook Comments



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here