If You See Me: My Six-Decade Journey in Rock and Roll

Pepé Willie (Author) Tony Kiene (With)
& 1 more


From the 1960s R&B scene in New York City to the Minneapolis Sound of the 1980s, Pep Willie has been up close and personal with some of the most explosive American-grown music and musicians of the latter half of the twentieth century. The nephew of Clarence Collins of Little Anthony and the Imperials, Pep Willie spent his Brooklyn youth surrounded by groundbreaking R&B and soul musicians. He worked as a valet for Little Anthony and the Imperials and the many legendary acts who shared the stage with them--from Ray Charles and Patti LaBelle to the Four Tops and the Supremes. Pep rubbed elbows with the hottest stars of the day and got an up-close look at the inner workings of the music business. The experience inspired him to pursue his own musical dreams. After meeting and marrying a Minneapolis native, Pep moved to Minnesota in 1974. He was brought to a family gathering to see a performance by the band featuring his wife's cousin, Prince Rogers Nelson. From this first exposure to Prince and his band Grand Central, Pep knew that this precocious teenager had extraordinary talent, and he set out to take the youngster under his wing, educating him on the ins and outs of songwriting and music publishing. In December 1975, Pep brought his cousin-in-law into the studio for a session with Pep band, 94 East. This first recording of Prince, the so-called Cookhouse Five sessions, was a pivotal moment in the rise of an unparalleled musician. While he continued to serve as mentor, confidante, advocate, and, briefly, manager for Prince, Pep Willie left his own indelible mark on the burgeoning Minneapolis Sound with 94 East. (The 94 East song "If You See Me" opens the definitive compilation album, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound.) He also became a mentor to other musicians in Prince's circle, such as Andr Cymone, Morris Day, and more. Pep himself was inducted into the Minnesota Black Music Hall of Fame in 1988. In this autobiography, Pep Willie tells of his journey through the music industry and chronicles working alongside Prince, helping the rising star make his own way in the business.

Product Details

$19.95  $18.35
Minnesota Historical Society Press
Publish Date
September 01, 2020
6.0 X 8.9 X 1.4 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

Pepé Willie is a musician and the founder of Pepé Music Inc. Recognized by many as the godfather of the Minneapolis Sound, Pepé was the first person to ever take Prince into a professional recording studio, and Pepé's own band, 94 East, was an integral player on the local music scene of the mid-1970s.
Tony Kiene is an author who has worked with several nonprofit and entertainment organizations in the Twin Cities. He writes two Prince-related columns: "Purple Music: Musings on the Minneapolis Sound" for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and "Alumni Spotlight: Stories from the Park" for the PRN Alumni Foundation. Some of Kiene's other Prince content has appeared in Insight News, The Theology of Prince, Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, and Prince: The Day I Was There.
Clarence Collins is a singer, producer, and founder of the legendary R&B group Little Anthony and the Imperials. During their peak in the mid-60s, the Imperials appeared on a variety of television programs and performed live at clubs and venues around the world. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Collins currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.