Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, and John Bonham were Prairie's big influences in the British Invasion of Rock. Later on he got into John French, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Jack Dejohnette and were inspirational in fusion and more avant-garde styles of drumming for him. He recalls his 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 him to his new Yamaha drums, which he's endorsed and played with pride ever since.
When asked about his unique name:
"It’s actually derived from my middle name, Lenprere, which is a French-based name. My ancestor was Charles Lenprere Prince, and that’s my father’s name as well, so I’m a junior. When he was a little boy his nanny nicknamed him Prairie from that middle name. God knows why—she was from the Deep South in North Carolina. She said, “I don’t understand Lenprere so I’m going to call him Prairie.” When I was born they named me Charles Lenprere Prince Jr., but they’ve called me by my middle name, Prairie, since birth. It’s not something I made up. People ask, “Did you come from the desert?” Actually, I grew up in Arizona."
Prairie's first major and longest running band, The Tubes started as a collection of high school friends from Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Two Phoenix bands, the Beans and The Red, White and Blues Band, both relocated to San Francisco in 1969 and eventually merged. [From Prairies website] "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."
The new band's core membership remained largely intact for more than a decade: Fee Waybill (real name John Waldo Waybill) (vocals) who actually started out as their roadie, Bill "Sputnik" Spooner (guitar, vocals), Roger Steen (guitar), Prairie Prince (real name Charles L. Prince) (drums), Michael Cotten (synthesizer), Vince Welnick (piano), and Rick Anderson (bass). Singer Re Styles (born Shirley Marie MacLeod) (vocals) and ex-Santana percussionist Mingo Lewis were also fixtures for much of the band's early history.
Showbiz excess was a common theme of the band's early work, with Waybill sometimes assuming the onstage persona of "Quay Lewd" (a pun on Quaalude), a drunk, drugged out, barely coherent lead singer, decked out with flashing glasses and impossibly tall platform shoes.
The Tubes' first, self-titled album was produced by Al Kooper. The track "White Punks on Dope" was an "absurd anthem of wretched excess" and a tribute to their rich, white teenage fan base in San Francisco. "White Punks on Dope" has been covered by Mötley Crüe. The German rock musician Nina Hagen took the tune and set new lyrics to it (not a translation of the original lyrics), titled her work TV-Glotzer ("Couch Potato"), and used this song as the opening track of her own debut album Nina Hagen Band, released 1978 on CBS/Germany records. The album track "What Do You Want From Life?", which became another of the Tubes' signature songs, satirizes consumerism and celebrity culture and climaxes in a "hard-sell" monologue by Waybill which name-checks celebrities such as Bob Dylan, Paul Williams and Randolph Mantooth and well-known products of the period including the Dynagym exercise machine and a host of American vehicles including the Winnebago and the Mercury Montclair.
During their "Completion Backwards Principle" tour, Prairie had his kit mounted on a mobile riser so he could wheel up front for his solo's, going places and doing things on stage with a freedom that drummers are not ordinarily allowed.
The Tubes went on to produce many albums, some thematic in nature, utilizing various producers and engineers, Todd Rundgren producing two, and have left a legacy of multiple chart-toppers and many fan favorites over the years. The band has continued to tour in various incarnations over the years, and with the current line-up have gigs booked into 2011.
The Tubes were very unique in many ways, one being their rhythmic back-bone pairing Prairie Prince with percussionist Mingo Lewis. This pairing which really added to not only their recordings, but their live shows as well, really illustrates that this group, although forever pidgeon-holed into a corner for their over the top theatrics and tongue-in-cheek writing, were and still are greatly undermined monster-musicians and artists.
Prairie was also a founding member The Next Generation of Jefferson Starship in 1992 and appears on both their studio albums : the 1999 release Windows of Heaven and the 2008 release, Jefferson's Tree of Liberty. Due to Prince's commitments with The Tubes and the Steve Kimock band, he was often replaced by other drummers during the Starship's tours. Most notable replacements included Trey Sabatelli, former Jefferson Starship drummer Donny Baldwin and Tony Morley among others.
Prince and longtime companion Diana Mangano, the Starship's singer, announced in early 2008 that they were leaving the band on amicable terms and remained available for further collaborations. They were replaced by Donny Baldwin and Cathy Richardson respectively.
Prairie continues to tour with his bevy of top-notch bands, is still very high in demand, and always has time for his other passion, his artwork.
Prairie Prince (born Charles Lempriere Prince, May 7, 1950, Charlotte, North Carolina) is a rock drummer. He was a founding member of The Tubes and a founding member of Journey. He has also worked with Chris Isaak (on his first four albums), Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, David Byrne, XTC, Tom Waits, Paul Kantner, George Harrison, Dick Dale, Glenn Frey, Richard Marx, Bill Spooner, Neil Hamburger, John Fogerty, Tommy Bolin, Phil Lesh, and former Tubes and Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick.
He is also a graphic artist, designing the album cover artwork for Rundgren's 1981 album Healing and Welnick's 1998 album Missing Man Formation, among others. Along with his creative partner Michael Cotten, he has created numerous set designs for major artists including Billy Joel, Bette Midler, N'Sync, The Tubes, and Todd Rundgren.
He recently completed a tour with The New Cars including Todd Rundgren, bassist Kasim Sulton (Rundgren's Utopia bandmate), and original Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes. He also continues to play with The Tubes.