Charles (Chazz) Smith

Prince Rogers Nelson credited his older cousin Charles Smith for influencing him with three things in his young life – drums, basketball, and girls.  These sentiments were shared during Prince’s eulogy at Paisley Park on August 13, 2016. 

Charles (Chazz) Smith is the founder, original drummer, and lead vocalist of Grand Central, the band that spawned Morris Day, Andre Cymone, and Prince Rogers Nelson. Prince and Charles invited Andre (Cymone) Anderson to play bass. Together they formed the roots of what Prince would later go on to define as the Minneapolis Sound. The band consisted of Linda Anderson (Andre Anderson’s sister), Terrance Jackson, and William “Hollywood” Doughty.  William initially played rhythm guitar and both Terrance & William played percussion. The band’s name was inspired by Charles & Prince’s fascination with the band, Grand Funk Railroad. The band was one of the only black groups in Minneapolis who fused both rock and funk together. Grand Central & Flyte Tyme were two of the most electrifying rival bands in Minneapolis and consisted of all self-taught musicians. Charles later met Morris Day in his photography class at school and introduced Morris to his band. There are many stories and rumors why Charles left as he was trying to balance both football and music. However, in the end, the group disbanded altogether. When Prince was auditioning musicians for his first U.S. tour, it was at a Minneapolis warehouse where they first met Dez Dickerson. Charles was slated to be the drummer but Prince was told he needed a multi-racial band. Charles recruited keyboardist Gayle Chapman to audition.  She accepted the position and joined Prince on his first U.S. tour. In 1986, Charles collaborated with writer Steven Ivory on one of the first biographies ever written. Later that same year, Charles signed a solo deal with A & M Records in Los Angeles.

Today he resides in Eden Prairie, Minnesota with his wife Victoria and their four children. The two-year investigation into Prince’s passing resulted with no criminal charges.  After meeting with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, Charles decided to launch a secondary investigation into his cousin’s untimely and very tragic death. Charles is asking for the public’s support to have an outside firm reexamine the case.