What do you say when a burly guy comes up to you in a club and asks, "Do you mind if Prince plays your guitar?"
If you're John Daly, the answer is, "Sure."
This, in fact, happened to Daly last Saturday as he played his Les Paul Classic electric six-string in Blues on Bellair, a faux juke joint in Toronto's chi-chi Yorkville district. Daly, whose day job is being a senior editor of Report on Business Magazine, was playing rhythm in a quintet backing local singer/harmonica blower Jerome Godboo.
It was just after 11 p.m. when the burly guy -- a bodyguard, it turns out -- got in Daly's face. The band was starting to wind down its first set when, voilà, His Princeness showed up, itching to play. Daly handed his guitar to Prince only to have its loosely attached shoulder strap fall to the floor, forcing the little Prince to play while sitting on Daly's amplifier.
As most Torontonians know, Prince Nelson Rogers, the former pride of Minneapolis, has in recent months reportedly bought a $5-million pad on Toronto's Bridle Path to house his new Canadian bride and his little red Corvette. In the last few months, he has popped up at basketball games, concerts and club dates around Toronto, including last Friday's Norah Jones gig at Palais Royale on Lakeshore Boulevard.
As Daly sat out, Prince finished up the set with Godboo and the boys doing "a 12-bar blues thing." He continued to hunker down in the club during the intermission, spending part of the time talking with the band's bassist, Prakash John, best known for his associations with Lou Reed, the Lincolns, (the original) Bush and Alice Cooper. Just before the band resumed playing, Prince approached Daly again and said: "I'd like to play another song in the next set, if that's cool with you."
"It's cool," Daly replied.
After midnight, Prince made his move. This time, the strap was in place and, in short order, the 44-year-old pop-funk maestro started to turn the band's 12-bar blues into something else, "a 70s-style epic" that went on for more than 10 minutes. Cranking up the wah-wah and distortion effects, he cued the band through all sorts of twists and changes, "which the guys all kept up with."
At the end of the song, John's son, Jordan, who was playing drums, exclaimed: "Well, that's it. I'm retiring now." Jordan is 16.
This wasn't the first time that John Daly's Gibson has had a brush with greatness. He recalls that on a previous occasion Jeff Healey borrowed his instrument. "Unlike Jeff Healey, Prince didn't break any strings." July 24 was supposed to be the day that the Rolling Stones were to take over all of the CTV facilities in the former Masonic Temple at the corner of Yonge and Davenport in downtown Toronto.
As they've done in previous years, the world's oldest rock-and-roll band plans to use the studio -- which is home during the regular broadcast season to Open Mike with Mike Bullard and Talk TV, among others -- to work up songs, and sound and stage presentation for five weeks for their tour of North America, set to begin Sept. 5 in Boston. (Mick really likes the Canadian Tire Store across the street.)
But now comes word that Keith, Mick, Charlie, Ron, bassist Daryl Jones and keyboardist Chuck Leavell won't set foot in the place until the first weekend of August. The guys reportedly wanted to avoid the hassles of World Youth Day, and besides, only the Pope is a bigger (and older) draw than those sympathizers with the Devil. (In the meantime, how much you wanna bet that Prince jams with the guys?) "Do you know who you are?"
It's the sort of question that you might find in a Samuel Beckett play or as the title to a new collection of Alice Munro short stories (the sequel, perhaps, to her famous Who Do You Think You Are?).
But it was for real, and it was asked by an elderly woman earlier this week of CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers as she was leaving the auditorium in Wingham, Ont. (pop. 3,000), where several hundred had gathered to mark the 71st birthday of the town's most famous daughter, the aforementioned Munro.
Rogers had come up for the afternoon from her home in the hamlet of Eden Mills. "It's good to go to something like this instead of a wake," she said of the celebration while alluding to the deaths in the last six months of such friends as theatre director Urjo Kareda, fellow broadcaster Peter Gzowski and author Timothy Findley.
In reply to the question about her identity, Rogers barely paused and said with a laugh: "Not usually."
"I love you," the woman said.
"And I love you, too," said Rogers.
After a few more pleasantries, Rogers left. The fan turned to her friends who wanted to know who she'd been talking to. Well, it was Shelagh Rogers, she said, but she admitted that through most of the conversation she thought it had been . . . Vicki Gabereau,the former CBC announcer who now has her own TV talk show with CTV.