Steve Lukather actually had a trio of encounters with Prince over three decades, but they never shared a single conversation.

He first met this then-unknown talent around 1978, when Lukather had been hired by producer James Newton Howard to work on singer Valerie Carter’s second album Wild Child. “James said, ‘There’s this kid here, man, from Minneapolis,’” the Toto leader and session giant said in an interview with Sunset Sound Recorders (video below). “‘He’s supposed to be some genius guy. They want him to co-produce with me, or whatever. I think he’s just gonna hang out with us – don’t worry about it.’

“So I get in there,” Lukather added. “I didn’t know Prince. The first thing you hear is someone’s calling himself ‘Prince.’ ‘That’s his name? Did he give that to himself?’ I was just being a smart ass; I didn’t know nothing about this guy. ‘Prince, huh?’”

Lukather finally caught sight of “this little quiet and skinny little dude” in the control room of Sunset Sound’s Studio 2 in Hollywood, but still they did not speak. “He wouldn’t say a fuckin’ word, man … and I’m going to James, ‘What’s up with this guy? He’s creepin’ me out!’” Lukather said. “I’m playin’ all day long and the cat never said nothin’ to me, man – just occasionally would stare at me in a very hard way!”

Their second meeting also took place at Sunset Sound, around 1983 while Prince was mixing Purple Rain and Lukather was working in the next studio. After arriving one morning, he saw Prince “sitting on that purple bike that was in the movie, in a silver lame’ suit – sitting on it. It’s not [running],” Lukather said. “I go, ‘Hey man!’” Miming the slow uninterested glance of recognition, he added: “I got a little ‘Uh.’”

Lukather remains a “big fan” of Prince’s work, but “he wouldn’t take to me, man – and it lasted a long time.”

They crossed paths again around 10 years ago at an island festival, where Prince was headlining one night and Toto topped another. Lukather had booked the best hotel room available, since he was planning to stay for a while. “Well, apparently Prince wanted that room, and I already had it,” he said, “and I was right above him and he was pissed. I wanted to go and see the show, and he wouldn’t let us come on stage to see his show – and our tour manager at the time used to work for Prince as tour manager!”

There seemed to be more to the story: “He also screwed ...,” Lukather said, before changing subjects. “I’m gonna stop talking about this. I find it humorous. I was gonna drop down a rubber duck with a sign on it saying, ‘Hey man, are we cool?’ – but that didn’t get to happen.”

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