Prince’s career-launching demo tape goes to auction

Item is available through June 22nd

In a stunning revelation for music enthusiasts and Prince fans worldwide, the original demo tape that landed Prince his first record contract is set to be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction. This historic artifact, obtained from the estate of the late Warner Bros. Records executive Russ Thyret, serves as a testament to the visionary talent of the enigmatic musician and marks the inception of one of the most legendary careers in popular music.

The demo tape, meticulously recorded on a quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape in 1976, contains unreleased versions of three Prince originals: “Just As Long as We’re Together,” “My Love is Forever,” and the never-released gem, “Jelly Jam.” At the tender age of 18, Prince single-handedly wrote, arranged, sang, and played all the instruments for these tracks at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis. The demo, enclosed in its original custom-made box, comes with a remarkable plexiglass display case, a business card belonging to Russ Thyret, and a CD transfer of the tape’s audio. Additionally, it is accompanied by a letter of provenance from Jeff Gold of Recordmecca, a former Warner Bros. executive who worked closely with both Prince and Thyret, solidifying its authenticity and significance.

The journey to Prince’s record deal is a captivating tale that underlines the sheer determination and undeniable talent that propelled him to stardom. It all began when aspiring Minneapolis music business manager Owen Husney received word about Prince from Chris Moon, the owner of a local studio. Moon passionately described Prince as a virtuoso capable of playing every instrument and handling all aspects of music creation. Intrigued, Husney managed to get his hands on Prince’s demo, recognizing the raw brilliance within.

Husney’s belief in Prince’s potential led him to distribute 15 promo kits, each containing a tape, to major record labels across America. However, initial responses were dishearteningly non-existent. Undeterred, Husney hatched a plan to pique the interest of Warner Bros. Records. He called Russ Thyret, the label’s head of promotion, and promised to introduce him to the young genius while he was in Los Angeles on a trip financed by Columbia Records. Husney then reached out to Columbia, offering them a chance to hear the demo while he was in town on Warner Bros.’s dime. He repeated the same tactic with A&M Records, although his intentions to sign with Warner Bros. were unwavering, considering the label’s reputation for artist-friendly practices.

The turning point came when Prince and Husney met with Russ Thyret at Warner Bros. There was an instant connection, a bond that could not be denied. Husney recalls the profound impact of that meeting, stating, “After Prince and I met Russ and hung out with him, there was no doubt where we’d wind up…Russ was a man of great instinct and heart.” Unlike other labels that attempted to woo the young artist with lavish dinners, Thyret invited them to his home, where they sat on the floor, listening to music while he passionately shared his industry knowledge. His genuine commitment resonated deeply with Prince and Husney, solidifying their decision to choose Warner Bros. Records as their musical home.

The deal presented by Warner’s Chairman, Mo Ostin, left Prince, Husney, and attorney Gary Levinson in awe. Ostin’s team had gone all-in, offering the budding talent a groundbreaking million-dollar deal, spread across multiple years and requiring seven albums to be delivered. Overwhelmed with joy, Prince signed with Warner Bros. on June 25, 1977, less than three weeks after celebrating his nineteenth birthday.

Russ Thyret, who later ascended to become Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records, worked closely with Prince throughout his illustrious career. Following Thyret’s passing in 2021, archivist Jeff Gold, a former Warner Bros. Executive Vice President/General Manager who had collaborated with both Prince and Thyret, discovered this invaluable demo tape in Thyret’s attic. Now, this extraordinary piece of music history is poised to find a new home, offering fans and collectors a chance to own a museum-quality Prince collectible, steeped in unparalleled provenance.

The auctioning of Prince’s seminal demo tape represents an opportunity for music aficionados to acquire an extraordinary artifact that captures the genesis of an artist who reshaped the landscape of popular music.

In addition to Prince’s legendary demo tape, the music-themed auction also features several other highly coveted Prince items that hold immense historical and sentimental value. Among these cherished artifacts is Prince’s stage-worn Purple Rain Tour lace glove, Prince’s The Black Album, an incredibly rare first pressing that remains sealed to this day, and Prince’s graffiti bridge-era worn “Love Me” cufflinks.

The auction is underway through June 22nd via RR Auction.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: