Buffalo's Oscar Alston Remembers Prince

Oscar Alton

Oscar Alton

Oscar Alston is a self taught and God gifted bass player grew up in the projects of Buffalo, NY, and rose through the ranks of awesome bass players to ultimately become the premier bass player for Rick James. Oscar prides himself for creating bass lines that were patterns for songs by Michael Jackson, appreciated by Prince, and danced to by everybody in between. Oscar reflects on his personal experience with Prince in the wake of the iconic singer and songwriter’s death.

What was your first interaction with Prince?

Prince came to Rick James’ dressing room to greet us after a show.   At that time, in 1979, Prince was opening on Rick’s “Fire It Up” tour.  I didn’t know who he was at first because he had drew a beard and mustache on his face which wasn’t there earlier that evening when he lit the stage up with one of his dynamic shows.  He had a small entourage including body guards, walking slow and deliberate.  He seemed to enjoy seeing our faces as we were surprised to find out it was him.  He spoke softly and occasionally cracked a joke as he made his way over to where Rick was and thanked Rick for allowing him to be on the tour.  

Was Prince really shy and standoffish?

I would say Prince was genuinely shy and maybe obsessively curious but very approachable.   While on that tour, backstage, a friend of mine asked me if that was Prince standing near a corner all by himself, she wanted to meet him.  I said sure come on.  We went over, I introduced my friend to Prince who was very cordial.  We didn’t stay, she didn’t gawk, (that would have turned him off anyway...) however, she did ask him to sign one of her blank checks, (that was the only paper she had.  He signed with a flattering smile.  I thought, let me get my girl outta here before I’ll be going back to the hotel with my hands in my pocket. lol)   

 Prince was a perfectionist.  Do you ever see a mean streak or temper tantrum from him to get his way?

 Prince really was a perfectionist... but he showed you even more than barking out orders, which I never heard him do.  It was more like, you see your boss practicing, working at something over and over, you would be too embarrassed to sit around and not give your ultimate.  You would see how absolutely gifted and committed he was to his craft and that would just inspire you to step up.  I saw him encourage people to step up with his words,comfort them with his smile and a look with his eyes or turn of his head that would just kill you if you were falling short or did something wrong.  People truly respected him and he knew how to the best out of out of you.  That’s something they really appreciated.

He was also multi-talented.  Could you tell how great he was at the time?

When you saw Prince perform, you could tell right away that he was an exceptional and gifted person.  If you had the chance to interact with him, you would get the sense he really was a person here on earth for a purpose that he was fully aware of.  He was spiritually gifted.  He knew it... but didn’t flaunt it as if to say, “look at me, I got it and you don’t.”  I knew Prince was a specially gifted person right away and his talent was only part of it.

It’s been said that Prince had a sense of humor.  Did you ever see that in him off stage?

Answer   -   Prince did have a sense of humor.  Intelligent, witty and somewhat of a prankster.  One evening there was a very large party at the Forum in L.A.  Everybody was there. Rick James, (who’s honor the party was given,) Prince, The Time, actors, comedians, etc., etc.  I was holding a drink in my hand when Prince walked up to me, hit my arm, just enough to make some of the drink spill then said with his natural deep voice, “that always happens when I do that.”  I laughed,... he just smiled at me laughing.  Prince was truly a gift from God for us to glean all the good we can from him.  R.I.P. my friend Prince.