James Harris III, aka Jimmy Jam, began playing professionally at age 12, and his dad Cornbread Harris was famous in Minneapolis as a singer and piano player. But in his adolescence, at Bryant Junior High School, Jam met a schoolmate whose precocious mastery of guitar, keyboards, bass, and drums left him astonished: Prince.
While Prince got a record deal at the age of 15, Jam joined a local band, Flyte Tyme (named for a Donald Byrd album), led by bassist Terry Lewis. After Prince made 1980’s Dirty Mind, his third album for Warner Bros. Records, he plotted the merger of Flyte Tyme with another local group, The Enterprise Band of Pleasure, promising them all a record deal. The conjoined funk-rock band was renamed The Time, and true to his word, Prince got them a deal at Warner Bros., which released The Time in 1981. “He was the architect, and we were the contractors,” Jam recalls. Here’s how good they were: years later, Prince called The Time “the only band I’ve ever been afraid of.”