In the mid-1980s, the Minneapolis, MN-based band Mazarati began as a side project for then-Prince bass player Mark Brown, who went by the stage name Brown Mark. Brown took the seven-piece funk/rock band under his wing and occasionally performed shows with the group. With some trepidation, Brown discussed the group with Prince and, after seeing the band perform, Prince urged Brown to produce and release the group’s 1986 debut album on Prince’s label, Paisley Park. Prince even gave the band a few songs for possible inclusion on the album. They kept the funk flavored tune “100 MPH,” which hit the Top 40, but passed on the song “Jerk Out,” which wound up being a top ten hit for the band The Time on their album Pandemonium in 1990. The third song was a slow, bluesy little tune that Prince recorded on acoustic guitar entitled “Kiss.” The band wasn’t feeling it in its original form but rearranged it into an up-tempo danceable track. Prince dug it so much, he took it back, reworked it a bit, added his own vocal (with Mazarati’s background vocals intact) and released it on his album Parade, where it became a number one, Grammy Award-winning hit. Mazarati saw modest success thanks to a combination of funk on the tunes “Players Ball” and “Stroke,” ballads like “I Guess It’s All Over” and “Lonely Girl On Bourbon Street,” and the psychedelic rock of “Strawberry Lover.” The group kicked off a rigorous national tour, sometimes playing four to seven nights a week, performing at the premiere party of the Prince’s feature film Under the Cherry Moon, on MTV and live shows which included venues of thousands of people along with small bars and clubs.
Fun Fact: At the band’s first gig at a club called Cabooze, tickets went for $2 a piece. After Prince and Brown Mark parted ways, the band signed with Motown Records and released their second album, Mazarati 2, which didn’t fare quite as well and was only released in Canada. Mazarati’s debut album is still a must-have for die hard fans of 80s Minneapolis musical magic.
Montrose Cunningham is a Dallas, Texas-based, independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado, currently working on a Masters in Marketing degree. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughters, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his release Inertia at www.cdbaby.com/cd/montrose, follow him on Twitter @MontroseC and check out his blog, Daddy Rock Star.