Pepe Willie – Part 1
“Because of his role in the careers of the Time, Vanity 6 and others, one could be forgiven for thinking that Prince created the Minneapolis R&B/funk scene by himself. In fact, it was thriving locally before it began, and one of the biggest bands was 94 East, named after the interstate that splits Minneapolis in half. ~”How Prince Got his Start with ‘Just Another Sucker’”/DIFFUSER
The band (94 East) was led by Pepe Willie, whose path to pursing his own fame and fortune took a detour to Minneapolis when he married Shauntel Manderville and relocated there. Not long after arriving, Willie worked with his wife’s cousin, Prince and his then band, Grand Central, which included Andre Anderson (now known as Andre Cymone), Linda Anderson, Morris Day and William Doughty (also known as “Hollywood”)– as well as other local musicians during their formative teenage years on the rapidly-florishing local music scene and who later found success in the music business.
As the nephew of Clarence Collins, founder for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers “Little Anthony & The Imperials”, and having grown up in New York City, Pepe Willie learned about the music business as a teenager. Watching his uncle’s gigs, serving as road manager and assisting the acts his uncle played with….. Pepe saw how record companies operated, the way tours were organized and how musicians made their money. He even ran errands for major stars of the day including Dusty Springfield, The Chiffons, The Four Tops, Ray Charles, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and more. It was during this time he spent with rock-and-roll luminaries that Pepe decided to pursue a career in show business. Pepe had also been introduced and had interactions with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, Dionne Warwick, Wayne Newton, Ike and Tina Turner. But, when he saw and met Elvis, Pepe will even tell you that he thought wow, “now that man’s a star. It was a different kind of thing.”
This BROOKYLN-BRED songwriter and producer, who also plays a variety of instruments, wound up dedicated his life not only to writing and creating music, but also helping young artists understand and teach them that the “music business hasn’t changed”. Pepe tells everyone that “the only thing that’s changed is the music. Artists still have to copyright, you have to have that (songwriting) formula, you still need to have publishing and you still have to be part of a performer’s rights organization. You’ve got to be protected out there.”
Did you miss Dianna catching up with PEPE WILLIE for a LIVE PHONE INTERVIEW during RADIO MEMPHIS AROUND THE WORLD? They talked about his life in the business and how setting aside his personal plans for his own band to push for the success of another artist that becomes a legendary icon influenced and shaped Pepe as the mentor his is today. LISTEN NOW.
*photo of PEPE WILLIE compliments of Pepe himself.
**research info for informative event post pulled and derived from DIFFUSER/BeautifulNightsChitTo
Listen to part 1 now.
*Picture of Pepe Willie courtesy of Pepe Willie himself.