"Pizza Man! Did You Order Any Pizzas, Ma'am?"
Many have asked about how Tom Underwood went from delivering pizzas to working for Prince at Paisley Park. In Tom’s words:
"Dig If You Will This Picture: Twenty years ago I moved up to Minnesota from the Carolina's. Over the years many different friends of mine had all worked at Paisley, but I was never in the mix until a few years back. Right up the street at the local Domino's Pizza I was the main closing delivery driver. Josh Burrington was the manager and he’d make all the food. Working late at night I'd run into all the various Paisley musicians either at a local hotel or over at Paisley when they'd be practicing. With the long, hard hours they'd work not many food options were open late at night so we were always glad to serve the Prince crew. Some of the tour managers would stop in to pick up the order and give Josh a bigger tip than the price of the pizza! You might not know that after Prince passed the staff and family had 50 pizzas delivered to Paisley and passed out among the fans that were there paying respect.
If you live around Chanhassen it was common to run into Prince. He'd usually swing by Domino's in some sweet car and a cute female companion would always jump out and grab the pizza. Then one day an order popped up on the screen for 7801 Audubon Road, and this time when I delivered the pizza I could've just walked away without saying anything but I thought ‘here's my chance’ so I asked the guy in charge if he needed help around the place. He took my number and I never thought I'd hear back. Well, being that I lived right down the street and could be readily available I got the call, and that's how it started. At first I'd be the guy standing outside guarding the parking lot welcoming the visitors and giving them the run down on all the rules. Prince had a strict ‘no camera or recording device’ policy. I'd tell the guests on arrival and again inside the entry, and as they would enter the jam room signage was posted on all the doors so the rules were made crystal clear. Most fans followed the rules but unfortunately I did have to ask a few fans to leave who didn't respect his wishes. From that point I did many different things at Paisley, from security, hooking up equipment and cleaning, to name a few.
I'd have to say guarding Prince was easy. He never created enemies so nobody was out to hurt him. As a matter of fact, it was more like making sure the girls gave him space to move! One thing I avoided, not because I was told to but because I respected him, was trying to initiate conversation or interaction with him unless he did it first. I wanted to keep it professional and let him do his thing. There was one time I accidentally interrupted him and the 3rdEyeGirl band while they were practicing. He calmly looked over at me and said to give the guy I was looking for a call, which demonstrated to me what an approachable, down-to-earth guy he really was. We had lots of good bands swing through and at the time two albums were in the works; one was Plectrumelectrum and the other was Art Official Age. Seeing all the hard work they put into making that happen showed me that the music business isn't as easy as one would think. The Prince crew was the hardest working group of people in show business. If you've ever been to a show you've witnessed the final product: Music at its finest.
On a typical day of a show I'd place about 100 purple candles throughout the stage area. Up on the stage there would always be some cool light with fog machines and some funky designs on the big screen to give the ultimate illusion. Prince was a cool guy and his staff were all very nice people. What did it for me though were the fans. Seeing them all happy and super excited to be at Paisley Park made my heart melt. At the mention of a party, fans would drop everything they were doing to come hang out and dance the night away.
After all the parties, I always wanted to walk over to Prince and ask to jam guitars with him just to see if anything would come of it, but I never got up the nerve to do it. I guess it was just a respect thing. I use this as an example for any of you that have something you want to say or do in life. Don't hold back, don't procrastinate. Just go for it and reach for the stars. Tomorrow is never promised, so make the most of today.
Prince will forever be in my heart… he was wise, funny, and one amazing musician. I’ll always love that guy.”
"I worked for Prince for the last couple of years at Paisley Park. I did everything from security to hauling out the trash. Being a part of Paisley was an awesome experience."
Underwood has one special memory that stands out from the rest. "When Prince took his first selfie picture it was in front of a mirror using a camera. He wasn't sure what to title it and asked for input. Well, I had just read a Bible scripture and one stood out that said 'Know thyself'. I mentioned it, and he titles it 'Know Thyselfie'."
Prince shared his first ever selfie via Facebook on November 11, 2014. His publicist released this statement: Prince used an old-school camera because he doesn't own a cellphone. He [Prince] jokingly says "We ban their usage anywhere around us because We're allergic 2 lithium and 'Everybodyelsies.' "
"Being a part of Paisley was an awesome experience...He (Prince) was so good to everybody, it’s so sad he’s gone. The nice thing is that he left us with lots of great memories and music to dance the night away.
I didn’t know much about Prince in the beginning and learned to have great respect for him. I ask that those who visit Paisley do the same. The complex is a masterpiece, kind of like a big technical music factory. A few of our staff used to joke around about how working for Prince was like working for Willy Wonka. We were all the little behind-the-scenes guys making it all happen for this genius of a boss. It’s just we helped make cool music instead of candy.
If only the public had a clue how good of a person he was. All he wanted was to make sure everybody had fun."
"I remember every guitar, every cool car, and the neat studios in which all the music was made, and it still blows my mind that I got to take part in it.
As an amateur guitar player it was a good way to learn. During a gig he’d do some cool trick with a guitar and when I got home I’d get my guitar out and try it. After doing that it showed me just how good he really was. Prince had vision and could turn his dreams into reality. His theory on how music comes together was spot on. I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but basically he said if you can understand a piano you can understand the universe with all the patterns.
One night he said [to a crowd at Paisley], all of you don’t worry about what the crowd is doing, just be good at what you love. Go against the grain and be different. Always stay focused because too many people dwell in the past or try to think too far into the future, missing out on the right now.
He was a teacher to us all."
"There were a few gigs I unfortunately couldn’t attend towards the end of his life, which I regret. I did, however, remember the last time we crossed paths. Madonna had stopped by after her show [Oct 8, 2015] to come check out Paisley. He ended up playing for her and it was awesome.
I tell ya, flipping off the final light and locking the door was for many a relief because we had been working like dogs all day and were about to drop by the time 5:00 am rolled around, but it was kinda sad to leave. It’s like I never wanted the party to stop and there were times when it seemed like it wasn’t going to. Those were the best parties…when you go to leave and the sun was starting to rise and the birds were chirping, and your ears ringing from all the loud jamming he’d do. Wow, what a cool time it was.
At the end of the gig everybody had left except for Prince and the manager. Well, here comes Prince rolling up on a sweet beach cruiser bicycle going for a stroll. He had the biggest grin, and to be left with that as my last thought…of him smiling, is priceless."