When Prince started touring in 1979 after the release of his second album, he became enamored of Earth, Wind & Fire's live show with its magical special effects. He asked to meet the group's manager.
Enter L.A.-based Cavallo, who also had worked with Weather Report, Little Feat, Lovin' Spoonful and others.
He encountered Prince at an uncommon moment of insecurity. "Prince said, 'When I saw that (Earth, Wind & Fire) show, I didn't think I could do something that great.' I said, 'I'm sure you can.'"
He went to see Prince in concert. The wannabe rock star was performing in a trench coat, leg warmers and a G-string. Cavallo gave Prince a favorable post-show review backstage but opined: "I don't think you should go out onstage in your underwear."
"Prince says, 'OK, stay for the next show, I'm going to take off my underwear.' And the band howled."
On the early years:
Cavallo remained based in California, but Prince would occasionally invite him to the Twin Cities to hear some music. "He was respectful to me," the manager said.
At the same time, Prince had his own ideas. In 1982, he wanted to do a double record. The managers were against it. Of course Prince prevailed, but not before Cavallo sent him back to work to come up with a potential first single. It became the title track: "1999."
Prince wanted to offer one song that wound up on the album to another artist to record. Cavallo countered: "Are you crazy? What songwriter would write a first line like 'The way you parked your car sideways, I knew it wouldn't last' Who writes something that good?"
"Little Red Corvette" became Prince's first Top 10 hit.