By Jeff Wagner

Originally published April 21

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thursday was a somber day of remembrance for Prince fans. Six years ago on this day, the music icon was found dead at his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen.

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His fans often visit the Twin Cities around this date to learn about his life.

Thursday night, WCCO caught up with some of Prince’s childhood friends to learn some hidden gems from their days as kids.

In WCCO’s quest to confirm if a young boy seen in a 52-year-old film reel was Prince, we hoped to find another charismatic boy who was standing near the purple one on the day of that interview. His name is Ronnie Kitchen. Not long after the initial story aired we were able to connect with him and Terrance Jackson, another childhood friend from the neighborhood.

Sitting on the bumper of Kitchen’s SUV, the two traded stories outside Lincoln Junior High School, where the 1970 interview took place. The way they joked with each other, it was as if the two men, now in their 60s, were kids again.

Prince in 1970 (credit: CBS)

After a playful disagreement on which street corner the interview occurred on five decades ago, the two were able to agree several aspects of Prince’s childhood. The spoke highly of his talents beyond music. Kitchen loved playing spots, especially football.

“[Prince] wasn’t into football too much, he’d throw and catch a couple balls. He wouldn’t play no games. But when we walked across that street to John Hay [Elementary School in north Minneapolis] where the basketball hoops were, that’s where he raised hell,” said Kitchen.

Jackson recalled a time he played basketball against Prince.

“Him and my dad against me and his cousin Charles Smith up at North Commons. Yeah, they beat us two out of three,” Jackson said.

Kitchen was quick to remind people that despite Prince being soft spoken and of a small stature, he had zero problem attracting women.

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“The man had women that would just stare at him. And when he lived over south, girls was coming to his house all day, every day,” Kitchen, adding that he luckily would get invited to Prince’s house when girls were visiting.

The downside to being quiet and one of the shorter kids was Prince was sometimes the subject of bullying, both men said. At the same time, Prince wasn’t going to back down.

“Prince was not scared of nobody. He would fight you [laughs]!” Jackson said.

Kitchen added that all of their friends made sure nobody picked on Prince.

Ronnie Kitchen and Terrance Jackson (credit: CBS)

From the school yard to the backyards, their stories traveled across the northside to the homes where they grew up. When Prince moved into the Andersons’ house at 12 years old, Jackson was living next door. Their shared loved for music grew into a band, Grand Central. Jackson said one summer they brought their instruments from his basement to the back porch.

“When we started rehearsing, people starting coming by listening to us. And then the back yard started to fill up, the whole back yard,” Jackson said. “And then before you knew it, the alley was full of people. Then after that, people were all the way on Plymouth Avenue. There was so many people on Plymouth Avenue that the police actually came in, all the way, and said, ‘Hey, you guys gotta cut this out. You’re causing a big traffic problem.’”

The two recalled how there was a band on every block made up of kids from the neighborhood. Jackson said they were often the youngest, but did their best to compete musically with the older groups.

“We’d go down to David Island’s house with Terry Lewis and all those guys down on Upton Avenue. We’d watch those guys rehearse and then come back here and go ‘We’re gonna beat those guys,’” Jackson said.

Kitchen didn’t play instruments, but he said he was always around supporting his friends’ bands and listening to them perform.

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“I played sports. We supported them and they came to our games and stuff, they supported us. So you put the music with the sports, you can’t lose,” Kitchen said.

Jeff Wagner