Sheila E. On ‘Let’s Go Crazy: A GRAMMY Salute To Prince’: ‘Everyone Needs To Put Your Dancing Shoes On’

Lets Go Crazy: A GRAMMY Salute To Prince airs tonight, Tuesday, April 21st at 9:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Tonight’s tribute will celebrate the life and career of legendary artist Prince with some of the biggest names in music performing his greatest hits.

As part of tonight’s special Sheila E. aka The Queen Of Percussion will back many of the performances with her band. CBS Local’s Matt Weiss caught up with Sheila to discuss tonight’s show and her relationship with Prince.

MW: Good morning Sheila, how are you doing today?

S.E.: Doing well, Matt!

MW: We’re here to talk about the Prince Grammy salute coming up tonight. With someone like yourself that has so much history with Prince, what does it mean to you to be able to be a part of this special honoring of his life and his legacy? 

S.E.: We’re humbled. My band is humbled. Were able to back up all but three artists for the night. We had so much fun because we love playing those songs. Some of them we played since their conception  and to be able to play his music and celebrate him with other artists was really cool. We had a great time. 

MW: Do you remember the first time you met Prince? I’m sure you do. 

S.E.: [Laughs] He remembered the first time he met me. It was either ’77 or ’78; he went to the Bay Area where I was born and raised in Oakland, California. When I met him he told me he wanted to record in this studio in this environment where Carlos Santana had recorded his albums at the time and Sly Stone. My dad was in Santana at the time and they were like there’s this young kid next door in the studio recording and playing everything himself and he’s like wow, what’s his namePrince. Ok. He comes and plays the Bay area and I go backstage to meet him and put my hand out and say, ‘Hello my name is…’. He says, I already know who you are, I’ve been following your career, you played this and this and this. I saw you on drums’ and he just went on and on. We exchanged numbers and that was the beginning of just a great friendship.  

MW: Wow. What impact did you have on him? And what impact would you say he had on your life as well? 

S.E.: We liked a lot of the same things, but also bringing to him my dad’s music, Latin jazz music. He had never really heard of Latin jazz before. He fell in love with the fact that I was able to play with my family, my brothers and my dad in a band. That was something he always wanted to do with his dad. He just thought that was such a blessing for me to be able to do that. I think it was a learning process in jamming in the studio and playing. I was used to recording with artists that would make sure that when I set up my drums or sometimes it would take an hour or two to get a drum sound. Oh, can you take this up, this is a little loud, I’m hearing a rattle and things like that. When you get in a studio with Prince, we’re barely putting the cymbal on and he’s like, ‘1, 2’. And you’re grabbing things, like wait, what? There’s no getting any sound, you just play. If that’s what the drums sound like, then that’s what they sound like. I loved that about him, we’ll do it after, let’s just get into it. 

MW: That’s really cool. You shared the stage with a lot of artists for this special, which ones really stood out to you?

S.E.: Everyone did. Everyone was a little bit nervous because, I want to say this to be sensitive, no one came in trying to be Prince. We didn’t do that. This is a celebration and everyone did their interpretation of how they would present his song. I think that’s a great thing. We’re all going to do things differently so that’s one thing. Putting together the songs for the artists, some of them chose songs and we try to make arrangements that would try and help them get through the song because they’re not trying to be him. No one will be him. That’s what was so cool, coming up with these arrangements to make it a little bit different. I think they all stood out. Everyone had a great time. 

MW: Very cool. To step away from the special for a minute, I’m just curious to hear your opinion, who are some of the upcoming artists today that you are really into that you really see going somewhere? 

S.E.: Oh Gosh, there are so many, and I don’t even know everyone’s names. Of course, I’ve been home and busy, so I’m on the internet going look at this person, look at the person. First let me say that it’s truly exciting to see so many young artists picking up instruments now, playing guitar, singing, in their rooms playing piano and drums, it’s just wonderful to see. I mean H.E.R. was on the show and Gabby’s amazing. I wanted to play with her because she’s from the Bay and she actually sent me a picture of her standing with my dad. Her dad took her to see my dad’s band. She was like nine or 10 years old. It’s like here you are this massive star and we finally get to play together on this show. But she’s incredible. Miguel was incredible. These up and coming artists is just great.  

MW: Wow, what a story. That’s so cool. Stuff like that is awesome.  

S.E.: It is. You never know how someone’s going to turn out, how you influence people.  

MW: Last question before I let you go, for a huge Prince fan that’s going to be tuning in tomorrow night, what can you say to them about what to expect out of this tribute? 

S.E.: I’m going to tell you; everyone needs to put your dancing shoes on. You’re not going to be able to sit down. You’re going to have a great time. This is a time for families to come together and watch this. Music brings people together and this is a way to celebrate Prince’s legacy which is his music and we did it the best way we knew how, which was to showcase these artists and come together as a community. We hope the younger generation that don’t know a lot about Prince’s music will come and start researching and finding out how many different genres of music and the way he created and wrote songs and amazing guitar player. They will be as amazed as we were.  

MW: Thank you so much Sheila, it was great talking to you and all the best. Stay safe. 

S.E.: Thank you!

Tune in for Let’s Go Crazy: A GRAMMY Salute To Prince tonight at 9:00 PM ET/PT, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.