The story of Prince’s Cloud Guitar has been told and documentated by many people, often with slightly different details. Would you like to read up on the full story, is a good place to start.

In short, Prince wanted to have an iconic guitar as a hero prop in the Purple Rain move and went to local Knut-Koupee Music Store in Minneapolis, where luthier Dave Rusan was assigned with the job. The assignment was to build a guitar, that would be important to the storyline of the Purple Rain movie, and the design should mimick a 1972 bass guitar owned by André Cymone, Prince’s friend since childhood and a bass player in Prince’s former band. This bass in turn inspired by an F-style mandolin.

Advertisement for Knut-Koupeé Music Stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul Dave Russan holding the white Cloud Guitar created as a prop for the Purple Rain movie Screengrab from the Purple Rain movie where ‘The Kid’ receives the white Cloud as a present from Apollonia

Anyway, the rest is history so to say. The (white) guitar built by Dave Rusan featured in Purple Rain and Prince appearently like it a lot since several more were built, repaired and repainted over a long period. Reportedly, when the 1985 Raspberry Beret video was released, the iconic guitar became known as the Cloud Guitar, likely because of the similar shape to the clouds on Prince’s outfit in that video.

The hero prop in the Purple Rain movie was coloured white Several copies were created or existing copies repainted like this ‘Sign ‘O the Times’ era color scheme During the 1990 ‘Nude Tour’ a second blue version (not the 1988 ‘Blue Angel’) was used The yellow cloud from the 1992 ‘Daimonds and Pearls Tour’ became the version I decided upon

Guitars on the wall

My dad was a guitar player so I grew up in a house where there were always several guitars, eventhough I never had the patience to learn how to play an instrument. But being accustomed to guitars for grabs on the wall I got the idea to have a Cloud Guitar on display as a Prince prop. At some point there were basic measurements online, but building a guitar, eventhough it was just for decoration and does not need to be a playable instrument, still seemed like a daunting task and I never started that.

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The Real Deal

After Prince’s passing, an original 1982 Prince (PM16549) owned Cloud Guitar was auctioned for a hefty $563,500. The catalogue of this auction is still online and is a fascinating document meant to prove the provenance of their auction lot. Another Prince owned (PM16220) Cloud Guitar from 1992 was auctioned at $192,000 in 2022, and Paisley Park Enterprises provided a Yellow Cloud to the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

More details about Prince owned Cloud Guitars build by Dave Russan, and lateron Andy Beach, can be found in the Prince Equipment Archive. Dave Russan is still a luthier and handcrafting all kind of guitars, among those reproductions of the design he did for Prince. An incredible skillful but humble and friendly guy that creates true works of arts. Without any doubt fantastic instruments for those able to play guitar, probably priced as an artisans job should be, while his clients will have to patiently wait many months for their instruments.

Chinese adventures

Then I learned that Chinese copycats were selling Cloud-like guitars. I’m sure these are nothing compared to the genuine instruments from earlier mentioned sources, but I did seem like the only plausible option to get a Cloud Guitar decorating my home-office wall.

The first attempt was ordered in March 2020 but nothing was every heard from the supplier (later we learned this was right when an epidemic hit China), so eventually I applied for - and got a full refund. In December 2020 the second attempt with another supplier. This time I got some email correspondence, but a package or even tracing of a shipment, never materialized so this ended in a refund again. Third time’s a charm … a few weeks after the third order, two (low resolution) pictures for final approval by the client were sent by this third supplier. The pictures could tell me nothing about ‘quality’ but I took the plunge, and okay-ed the shipping. A few long weeks with regular but utterly confusing tracing information followed, before the package (and import duties) actually showed up at my doorstep. The woodworking and paint quality isn’t all that bad, but the whole thing feels like a lousy instrument to play. Like expected before ordering and not a problem at all for my purpose (and skillset).

Final approval before shipping from China Final approval before shipping from China Thriller Tracking

Flight Case

Now the guitar needs to be mounted on the home-office wall, which could ofcourse be easily done with the standard guitar clamp I had. But I had this little plan to make it more of a project. First I ordered a (almost) color-matched guitar strap and curled the electrical cable (in the oven) to make the prop more lifelike. Next I bought some flightcase hardware, slammed together a wooden panel, glued a purple colored piece of fake-leather to this panel and riveted the hardware to make the panel look somewhat like a guitar flightcase.

Many shortcuts in the construction and mostly glued together but none of it will be visible Having real flightcase hardware and rivets gets the message across Mounted with the yellow strap, but the electric cord still needs to be curled

For the finishing touch I got some help from a fellow Prince fam that has the equipment to do precision cutting and make me a stencil. That stencil was used to stipple the address that Prince’s real flightcases would have. Every now and then I think I should do some weathering to the panel, or add some worn decals, eventhough in it’s current condition this already brings a smile staring at it regularly.

Stippled the address on the flightcase adds to the storytelling And the final result … (fake) Yellow Cloud Guitar

Finally … a video of Prince performing a steady live version of The Ride in 1993 on (obviously) one of the genuine Cloud Guitars.
Turn up that volume LOUD and let this magic pierce your soul!