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Posted: Jun 24, 2008

Happy birthday to me...Happy birthday to me. Yes, I made it another year, and I am as happy as a clam. Because it is my birthday today, I am going to do something different. I am going to write about a band that is as far removed from Southern Rock as Willie Nelson is from the Anti-Marijuana League.

It’s no secret that during the early 1970’s, my love for Southern Rock shared space in my psyche with my love or theatrical rock and roll. Bands like Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and perhaps more than any of those, KISS.

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years, and while all of these bands did turn out some pretty rocking music, I was always more about the stage shows and the image associated with them. For sheer musical enjoyment I would play Fillmore East or Layla and Other Love Songs. When I wanted to escape reality, which was pretty darn often, I would go to see Alice Cooper or KISS, or read about them in the rock magazines. Still, I owned every album pressed by all three of these bands. Go figure.

Of all of the trio, it was KISS that I became addicted to, and it is an addiction that remains to this day. At least on some bizarre level. I still watch old videos of their shows and have followed the solo careers of all four original members, the amazing reunion tour in the mid-1990’s, and watched as Gene Simmons proved to the world that he can make a buck off of anything and everything, including toilet paper, condoms and caskets. No matter what you think of Simmons, it is undeniable that the man knows how to make money - millions. Last week I watched Simmons get roasted by friends and comedians. It was a riot.

I saw KISS in concert a total of 18 times during my life. The one show that stands out most was 1976, when they came to Greenville Memorial Auditorium. Bill Hudson and I went. I was a senior in high school, and a die hard fan.

The stage was amazing. Peter Criss, the drummer, had huge cats on either side of his drum kit with glowing red eyes, and the stage was set like a cross between some off Broadway show and the world’s biggest rock and roll band. Well, let’s face it, at that time it was a little of both.

It was one year earlier when Larry and I had gone to see KISS with openers Styx and Mott the Hoople in Asheville, NC. During the opening band’s set, I made my way around to the side of the stage, where I found a group of fans hanging out in front of a make shift fence. One of the guys said that the band was behind the door in front of us, putting on makeup. About this time, a blonde girl in her twenties spoke to me, and I asked if the guys were coming out to say hello to us. She disappeared, and just a few minutes later, emerged from behind the door with the tallest, thinnest dude I had ever seen. It was obvious he was a member of KISS, but since none of us had seen them without their kabuki like grease paint, we didn’t know for sure. That is until he stuck out his infamous tongue, and nearly incited a riot then and there. Long story short, we met all four members briefly before they ducked back in to the dressing room to get into costume and makeup. All I remember is that they were all very kind, signing a few autographs and thanking us for coming to the show, and that Gene Simmons commented on my T-shirt. I was wearing a Marshall Tucker Band shirt I had purchased in Myrtle Beach, and Gene pointed to it and said, “Good band.”

Years later after I became a journalist I had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing both Gene Simmons and Peter Criss. I was able to thank both of them for all the years of fun I had enjoyed because of their little ol’ rock and roll band. 

Nowadays, as I watch the family man that Simmons has become on his reality TV show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, it’s kind of hard to believe they have been doing what they do for over 35 years. Time flies when you’re blowing fire and spitting fake blood.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.

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zoie69 says...

Happy birthday! Kiss was a good band at first but when they became a joke after Rock and Roll Over I quit following them. I just bought Kissology on DVD and the old clips are awesome.

michaelbuffalo says...

Thanks for posting guys...I agree OHGuy, and strange as it seems, I have heard KISS riffs that sounded awfully Southern. Especially early on, from Destroyer back, during the period I consider their very best. Woody told me about playing with Peter Criss. How funny is that? Allen said he didn't like Peter, but it was "an experience." ...LOL... I once heard a bootleg of Paul Stanley singing a verse of Whipping Post and there's video of him from the R&R Fantasy Camp on YouTube doing a great job on Honky Tonk Women and especially on the Ides of March hit "Vehicle." Would have loved to see Arti jam with Paul. Ace played here a month ago but I was sick and missed it. :-( I did get a live disc of the show and it was hot....Thanks Rebyll for the b'day wish...I hear you Copperhead. I agree with your statement as well. I love a lot of stuff, but SOUTHERN ROCK is my passion....Thanks again.

OHGuy says...

Fun fact: Peter Criss had a country rock band in the mid 80's with none other than future Allman Allen Woody on bass.

copperhead says...

OK I'm a kiss fan also along with Boston, Bad company, ect good music is good music however nothing as good as so good ol southern swamp music

rebyll says...

Well HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUFF!!!! I never saw KISS live but I was a big fan also. My older cousin from Maryland was a big fan too but outgrew them quickly. Imagine my elation when she gave me all he KISS albums from the first one through Alive!!!

OHGuy says...

Hey Michael, never posted here but am a huge Kiss/Southern Rock fan. As you know, underneath the greasepaint, Kiss really was a good band. They wrote some really great songs with great riffs and solo's that really weren't too different than some of the early Skynyrd, Hatchet stuff. You could clearly tell that they all shared some of those same influences. Their approach was different but musically they were all cut from the same cloth. Even Artimus recently was quoted as being a convert when he worked with Paul at the RNR fantasy camp and it is always a highlight when son of a "swamper" Jay Johnson tears into "Watchin' You" or "She" with SRA. Heck even Paul and Peter said they both saw the Allman's at the Filmore. Listen to "love Them from Kiss". It's got a funky Allman groove to it. BTW Ace Frehley spent many summers in NC with his grandparents. Check him out on tour. He's rockin'!!

Benjamin1966 says...

Very cool Michael. As much as I love southern rock, I like reading about all of the stuff from your past, even Kiss. LOL. Happy birthday too.

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