Candy Dulfer: Prodigy Turned Pro
The North Sea Jazz Festival is an important gig for any performer, and it was going to be Rosa King's first appearance there. "We were rehearsing and people in the band came to her and said 'Rosa you can't do this. This girl is twelve, and this is a really important gig for you. She shouldn't be on the gig.' But they meant well. They wanted to protect Rosa. And [Rosa] said, 'Candy's gonna play. She's gonna be on the gig and I don't care what you say!' I thought it was just sweet for her to be so protective of me. But now I'm older and I've played the North Sea myself. I fully understand now what a big chance she took having me there. We did the gig and I was fine. But when I think of it now, I get tears in my eyes because I think what a big deal that was."
Candy Dulfer's early experience on stage continued to benefit her. At age fourteen, she began fronting her own band Funky Stuff and quickly gained a reputation as an up-and-coming talent. While still a teen, Dulfer began attracting record company offers and significant media attention. And in 1987, at age seventeen, Dulfer opened for Madonna during the European segment of Madonna's Who's That Girl world tour. "I only did one gig with her, two nights actually, in the Netherlands." Dulfer initially rejected the gig but agreed to do it after some urging from her mother Inge Dulfer, who now serves as her manager. "I was just scared that Madonna's audience wouldn't like me, you know, because it's such a different style of music. It was so good for me. I played before 50,000 people, so that gave me a good confidence boost. But also, because I played for Madonna, I was asked later to be the support act for Prince. And, in hindsight, the audience liked my music, even though it was totally different from Madonna's stuff."
The following year, Dulfer's band Funky Stuff toured The Netherlands and consistently played to sold out venues. It was during this tour that they were scheduled to open for international mega-star Prince. Unexpectedly, Prince cancelled his supporting acts which sent Candy Dulfer into a rage. After receiving an angry note from Dulfer, Prince apologized and invited her to appear on stage during his own performance. Dulfer's performance not only brought down the house, but also impressed Prince and launched a continued association with him. She was quickly transformed into an international sax sensation.
Dulfer describes working with Prince "like being in a class with the strictest teacher. You've got to give 110 percent in everything you do with him. He has this aura where you want to do anything to please him, and to be the best. When you play with Prince, you have to gig at night but you also have to sound check during the day. Sound check is almost like an audition everyday. Although it's just a sound check, he wants you to be totally there. [People like Prince] have such authority that you really want to do the best you can when you're around them.
And when you gig with Prince there's always an after-show, and that will last for three or four hours. When I'm with Prince, I feel like it's the best 'master' class I'll ever get. You get so much information [and] you play with the best people in the world. And in the meantime, there's somebody really looking over your shoulder, every step of the way. That's the only time I get nervouswhen I play for him. But it also drives you to become the best. He would [ask] me to play a concert one day before [the gig], and then give me a tape with 63 songs. So on a Thursday I'd be rehearsing 63 songs, and on Friday I'd be playing them. And I would be able to do it, which surprised me! But that's because he has a way to get the best out of everybody."
Candy Dulfer (age 12) on stage with Rosa King.
Dulfer's impressive performances with Prince led to recording sessions with former Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart. This collaboration resulted in the hit song "Lily Was Here" which did extremely well in both the European and American markets. Dulfer's hit with Stewart was followed by her first album as a solo artist Saxuality (Arista, 1991) which was nominated for a Grammy.