I was born on May 7, 1950 in Charlotte, NC. My full name is Charles Lempriere (Prairie) Prince.
I was raised in Phoenix, Arizona with two older sisters (Leslie and Helen) who gave me a constant source of musical influences, including: swing, jazz, blues and early rock and roll. Both parents were music lovers and my father, Charlie, played drums in his youth. My mother, Louisa, was an artist and encouraged pursuing music and art my entire childhood, which I did and still do.
During high school, I started a band with my friend Roger Steen called “The Mouth,” later becoming “The Red, White and Blues Band” which in turn led to joining forces with founder Bill Spooners’ Band “The Beans,” eventually evolving into “The Tubes.” We all moved from Phoenix to San Francisco after my acceptance to the San Francisco Art Institute on scholarship. There I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in painting. My interests in stage design began there with my friend and colleague, Michael Cotten, who I continue to share a 40+ year partnership with in number of branches of art.
My earliest drummer influences were Gene Kruppa and Buddy Rich in swing jazz, Stevie Wonder and Clyde Stubblefield in funk and soul, Sandy Nelson and Dick Dale in surf music, and Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and John Bonham in the British Invasion of Rock. Later John French, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Jack Dejohnette were inspirational in fusion and more avant-garde styles of drumming. My early trap sets began with a Rogers snare (1961), a four piece Slingerland (1963), a five piece Ludwig (1965), a five piece Rogers (1966) a six piece Flatjack (1967), a six piece Zicko (1971). In 1976 Mr. Hagiwara introduced me to his new Yamaha drums, which I’ve endorsed and played with pride ever since.
During the course of 40+ years, while continuing to record, perform and tour the world with The Tubes (15 albums and world tours) I also performed and recorded with many of my heroes and fellow artists alike, and have fulfilled my desire to execute many various drum techniques in a wide variety of musical styles. In the early 70’s I worked with the legendary pianist, the late Nicky Hopkins, recording two albums with musicians such as George Harrison, Mick Taylor, Ron Wood, Ray Cooper and Klas Voorman, among others. I started the band Journey with Neal Schon and Greg Rolly shortly after, and recorded the demos that got them their first contract, but opted for my dedication in The Tubes. After session work with Tommy Bolin, Brewer and Shipley and others in the 70’s, the 80s’ brought work with Chris Isaak and I played drums on his first four albums.
I was honored to record with Brian Eno and David Byrne on the innovative album “My Life in a Bush of Ghosts” in the early 80s. I have worked extensively with Todd Rundgren recording 7 albums and touring the world with him several times. I played drums on XTC’s “Skylarking” LP in the mid 80s, then again on their 2 CDs “Apple-Venus Vol I” & “WaspStar Vol 2” which was released in 2000. Also in the 80’s I recorded with Glen Frey, David Pack, three albums for Richard Marx and taped a Showtime Special with John Fogerty. The 90’s brought live performances with Tom Waits. I was the drummer on legendary “King of the Surf Guitar” Dick Dale 3 CDs. Then I became the full-time drummer for the re-formed “Jefferson Starship” featuring original members Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Jack Casady and Papa John Creach. After 4 CDs and several world tours I bowed out as their full-time drummer in 1998, but I continue to perform at their international gig drummer.
I have done studio work with renowned producer Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads.I continue to do a lot of session work in studios all over the US with established and up-coming talent.
I performances on a double/live CD with Grateful Dead bassist, Phil Lesh. I recorded a CD with longtime friend and former Tubes and Grateful Dead member, the late Vince Welnick (Missing Man Formation), which brought acclaim from a unique base of music fans. I also performed with guitarist extraordinare, Steve Kimock, in “SKB,” as a part-time member with Bobby Vega and Pete Sears, and continue to explore and expand on the improvisational themes this musical form takes on.
In 2006 I toured with The New Cars featuring Todd Rundgren as the lead singer, bassist Kasim Sulton , and original The Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes.
I continue to perform and tour with The Tubes and Todd Rundgren.
Visual Art has always been a huge component of my life. I’ve painted murals, designed stage sets and I have a thriving business creating custom finishes on drums, guitars, motorcycles and vehicles.
Early in my career I teamed up with Michael Cotten (former Tubes member) to create Cotten/Prince, an artistic design partnership. We combined our art expertise and worked with The Tubes choreographer Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing, High School Musical) to collaborate as the artistic team responsible for devising the production design and theatrical staging for The Tubes live shows and videos. We also designed the album covers and graphic design for the band.
We also come up with a style and air-brush technique which allowed us to design and paint some of the world’s largest murals.
One of our most famous murals was the “Flying Records” on the exterior of the A&M Records building in Hollywood, Ca. The mural’s demise was mourned by many in the music community, in particular Jerry Moss, founder of A & M Records. The destruction of the mural was documented in a 2012 NPR interview.
“BARCO: Moss says they knew it was all over when Polygram executives did away with murals painted outside the recording studios.
MOSS: We had these incredible murals that were painted by Mike Cotten and Prairie Prince, of the group called The Tubes; the A&M logo and – beautiful, all around those studios. And the week we left, for some reason, they just whitewashed it. And it was like, OK, that’s – that’s – that’s who they are.”
Other iconic murals include “Crashing Waves” on San Francisco’s Cliff House and the interior of The Chemical Bank of New York at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Working with long time collaborator Kenny Ortega we created set and stage design for some of the world’s biggest musical touring acts (Michael Jackson, Shania Twain, Bonnie Raitt, Gloria Estefan, Bette Midler, The Tubes and Todd Rundgren).
We also collaborated on the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games and the Super Bowl XXX Half-Time Show, starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson’s 1997 “History” tour and “This Is It.”
We also painted murals across the United States for companies including I Magnin, Macy’s, The Limited, Federated Stores. We also painted murals and interiors for international clients in Spain, England, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Japan. Other major mural commissions include grand scale interiors at the Ho-Chunk Casino and the Potawatomi Casino in Wisconsin.
I continue to design and paint murals and custom interiors in private residences across the country.
For the past 20 years I have been a muralist and decorative painter at the Thorton House, a private residence in San Francisco that was designed by the Palace of Fine Arts architect Willis Polk in 1915.
The late Vince Welnick (Grateful Dead, The Tubes) commissioned us to paint murals in his Mexican villa – Casa Del Sol – in Akumal on the Maya Riviera.
In the fall of 2013 I was commissioned to paint murals in a Pueblo Revival style home just outside of Santa Fe, NM.
The house in New Mexico and the house in Akumel, Mexico are available as luxurious vacation rentals.
I am the Artistic Director of MouthMan, a company founded with Ross Valory, founding member and bassist of Journey. We designed a line of shirts where graphic designs of jaws and teeth on the sleeves form a mouth when the wearer “hugs themselves”.
Current projects include Colours & Passions, a visual/aural extravaganza years in the making.