The band was assembled under a clause in Prince’s contract with Warner Bros. that allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label. Inspired by the 1980 film The Idolmaker, Prince decided to put together a pop-funk group that would serve as an outlet for material in the vein of his own early albums, while he explored other genres and styles in his own career.
By 1981, he had built The Time out of an existing Minneapolis funk unit, “Flyte Time” (from the Donald Byrd song), which featured Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, and Terry Lewis on bass. To this base were added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a lead singer and childhood friend named Morris Day, and Jerome Benton who was a promoter drawn from another local band called “Enterprise”, who became Day’s comic foil. Prince had used an Enterprise song, “Partyup”, on his Dirty Mind album, and his selection of Day was essentially a reward; he had originally tapped Alexander O’Neal – yet another player in the Minneapolis Uptown funk scene – for the vocalist slot, but O’Neal wanted too much money, himself being quoted as saying, “I basically didn’t see no point in being a superstar with no money.”