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Photos: Never-Before-Seen Snapshots Of Prince At The Tender Age Of 17

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Sometimes we have this image of Prince engrained in our minds: that he was born a megastar, always had a thin mustache and a soul patch, and was always sultry. Way before his multiple platinum-award-winning "Purple Rain" album and before he guest-starred on New Girl, the pop icon was a budding (and shy!) musician at 17, unwittingly about to embark on some major fame.

Mr. Musichead Gallery in Hollywood is presenting a free art exhibit that captures this moment in time. These never-before-seen photos of the "1999" singer by photographer Robert Whitman will run from Feb. 20 to March 7.

When Prince (who was then known as Prince Rogers Nelson) was first signed on to a management contract in 1977, Minneapolis music producer Owen Husney and his partner Gary Levenson got Whitman to take photos of the young musician for a press kit so they could pitch Prince to recording companies. Only 15 of these press kits were made and these photographs have rarely been seen, according to a statement from Mr. Musichead Gallery.

Whitman, who was just getting his foot in the commercial photography world at the time, took snapshots of Prince the the Minneapolis studio, Husney's home, and on the streets of downtown Minneapolis. (One of the best parts is Prince's huge afro, which he seems to be bringing back a mini-version of it recently.)

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"I didn't know anything about him and he was shy and I was nervous," Whitman told WENN (via FlyGirrl) about Prince. "I knew he was going to do something big when they played me his track 'Soft & Wet' and he performed at his studio. I got goosebumps."

He added: "I had no idea what I was doing—I had Prince kneeling by this awful furniture and blowing bubbles. I was trying everything I could think of."

Mr. Musichead Gallery is located at 7511 W. Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, (323) 876-0042; gallery hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.