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E. A. Webb //Kevin Nickelson

E loved Prince. Originally from southern Illinois, he moved to Minneapolis in the late ‘80s, and followed everything Prince did. E was flamboyant, gay and in a constant process of recreating himself with new looks, and even new names. He craved attention and was good at getting it (his outrageous beaver fur coat was one memorable look). He was covered in tattoos and piercings.

Selections from the collection of e. a. webb, presented by Kevin Nickelson

He loved and emulated Prince’s style. He worked hard at multiple jobs and spent most of his money on building his Prince collection and having his precious items carefully and creatively framed. His home near Lake Nokomis was a crazed jumble of Prince - every available surface was obsessively covered in framed posters, records and other Prince memorabilia. His friends noted it was oppressive and claustrophobic – but e loved it.

Kevin met e almost 20 years ago when they worked together in the music department at Barnes & Noble. They became good friends immediately, sharing their passion for music of all types and styles. E loved hearing Kevin’s old stories of the times when Prince would come into the Minneapolis record store where Kevin worked to browse and listen to new music.

In the mid-2000s, e announced he was moving with his partner to build a ranch house out West. When it was time to make the move, Kevin helped him carefully pack up his collection, lovingly wrapping each piece in large muslin cloths. e’s partner was far from a Prince fan, so when they moved, the collection ended up staying wrapped and untouched in the garage.

After several years of regular communication, Kevin lost touch with e for a few months and ultimately learned that e had become very ill, and that his family had picked him up and taken him home with them. Kevin has spent the years since staying in contact with the man who was e’s partner, and trying to locate e’s whereabouts. At one point, the ex-partner informed Kevin that he was disposing of e’s remaining possessions, including the Prince collection. Kevin was going through a very difficult time himself, but dropped everything to drive 13 hours across the country to save the collection that he knew his friend had put so much life energy into. Kevin tries regularly to follow up on news of e, but has lost all trace of his friend – with the exception of this remarkable representation of e’s greatest passion: Prince. Kevin likes to think that, if e has passed on, he was the first to greet Prince to his heaven.

Kevin Nickelson with portrait of e.

Kevin Nickelson, a passionate music collector himself, had the opportunity to interact with Prince regularly when he was employed at The Wax Museum, a popular south Minneapolis record store, in the early 1980s. He also sometimes squeezed into the First Avenue crowds for “surprise” Prince performances, enjoyed the occasional party and/or concert at Paisley Park, appeared in the movie (crowd scenes, but still...) Purple Rain, and, most memorable to Kevin, made music recommendations when Prince would ask “what’s new?”

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