Praising KISS Lead Guitarist Tommy Thayer

by Terri Bey

One year ago, on September 19, 2018, on the finale of America’s Got Talent, the rock band KISS played “Detroit, Rock City.” Their lead singer Paul Stanley announced that their upcoming tour, starting in January of 2019 would be their last. Titled the “End of the Road,” the tour started on January 31, 2019 in Vancouver, BC and ended in Denver, Colorado on September 12, 2019, with dates in Mexico City and a European Leg in between. Due to bassist Gene Simmons needing a medical procedure, the band’s Salt Lake City show on September 13, 2019 was postponed. Additionally, their shows in Oakland, CA on September 16th and in Los Angeles on September 20th were postponed until March 6, 2020 and March 4, 2020, respectively. The band is currently on break until KISS Kruise IX and an Australian and Japan swing in November and December of 2019. Go to http://www.kissonline.com for more information.

Now, I have only seen one show on the ongoing “End of the Road” Tour in Louisville, KY. You can read my review here: https://edgerules.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/kiss-rocks-louisville-on-end-of-the-road-tour/ . However, throughout the tour, I have been watching videos of just about every show, either posted on Youtube or Facebook by the band’s official Social Media person, or by fans who attended that particular show. The band sound very tight. Drummer Eric Singer and bassist Gene Simmons are a very cohesive unit as a rhythm section. Paul Stanley is the master of ceremonies for the band. However, this blog will be about the man who I think deserves a lot of praise, and that is lead guitarist Tommy Thayer.

Tommy Thayer at Louisville, KY “End of the Road” Tour Stop, March 12, 2019
Photo: Terri Bey
Copyright: Terri Bey

As most KISS and rock fans know by now, KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer took over for original KISS lead guitarist and guitar legend Ace Frehley at a private show in Jamaica on March 6, 2002, when Ace Frehley left earlier that year, after last performing with KISS at the Salt Lake City Winter Games Closing Ceremony. Thayer’s first official concert with KISS came on February 28, 2003 in Melbourne, Australia, when the band played the KISS Symphony Concern with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra with David Campbell conducting In fact, when Ace Frehley left, according to a recent interview Tommy Thayer gave to Australia’s Heavymag magazine, Thayer said, “There never was really a moment where they said, ‘We want you to join Kiss.’ I don’t even really remember saying that they wanted me to be the guitar player. It was just kind of like, ‘Tommy, we’re doing this.'” (https://heavymag.com.au/the-kiss-aussie-finale/)

In the same interview, he said that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley told him to “grow his hair,” as he was going to be playing lead guitar ( https://heavymag.com.au/the-kiss-aussie-finale/ ) , as Thayer had short hair at the time in 2002. The reaction to Thayer’s playing the role of the Spaceman was swift. Many long-time fans in the KISS Army objected to Thayer wearing Ace Frehley’s iconic makeup and costume, particularly those online. In spite of those objections, Thayer has remained with the band and is the longest tenured lead guitarist ever in KISS, as 2020 will be his 18th year playing for the band.

As for my feelings about Tommy Thayer taking Ace’s place, well, I felt the same when Eric Singer took over for Peter Criss and wore Criss’ makeup. It took some getting used to, but Gene and Paul wanted to continue the band, so that is the business choice they made. I make no bones about Ace Frehley being my favorite original member, but he left, and Paul and Gene wanted to continue. Would I like to have Ace Frehley in the band wearing the makeup he created, and playing the licks he created? I absolutely would. However, the man had every opportunity to stay in the band, but made the decision to leave. KISS owns the makeup rights, and wants to continue, so Tommy Thayer is playing instead. Maybe Ace will learn that decisions have consequences.

As most fans also know, but for those of my readers who don’t know, KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer has been involved in KISS for quite a long time, way before he donned the makeup. Thayer grew up a KISS fan and was born in Beaverton, Oregon on November 7, 1960. He started a band with Jamie St. James called Black ‘N’ Blue, known for “Hold On to 18” ( https://youtu.be/ATjErr7FNCs ). The band opened for KISS in 1985. Gene Simmons produced two of the band’s records, “In Heat” and “Nasty Nasty.” When Black ‘N’ Blue split circa 1989, Thayer went on to record an album with the band, Harlow ( https://youtu.be/Dd9tJWxBRYg ), then played on Doro Pesch’s self titled album and joined Shake the Faith for their album, “America the Violent.” Thayer, in the aforementioned interview with Australia’s Heavymag magazine, revealed that he also worked with Australian artist Jimmy Barnes ( https://heavymag.com.au/the-kiss-aussie-finale/ ). Per Thayer’s social media accounts, he recently did some guitar work on a project with former Chicago singer and bassist Jason Scheff. One of Scheff’s best known songs with Chicago is “Will You Still Love Me” (https://youtu.be/d_l-st8Q1S0 ).

Tommy Thayer eventually worked behind the scenes with Simmons doing “whatever needed to be done,” Thayer has said in various interviews. Tommy Thayer has written several KISS songs with Simmons, such as “Betrayed,” “The Street Giveth and the Streeth Taketh Away,” and “Childhood’s End.” Thayer also played lead guitar on just about all of the songs on “Psycho Circus,” except for “Into the Void, ” “In Your Face” (bonus track) and ” You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best.” Thayer also helped behind the scenes with the Official KISS Conventions in 1995. Thayer also was the road manager for the Psycho Circus and Farewell Tours as well. He also coached Ace and original drummer Peter Criss to get them back into the swing of things for the Reunion Tour. Thayer also produced the band’s “KISS: The Second Coming” Video, and other KISS related videos.

From watching the “End of the Road” videos, and from seeing the Louisville show, Tommy Thayer has been particularly amazing on this tour. He has really come into his own as a performer over the years, and he plays Ace Frehley’s licks faithfully, and Ace’s solo faithfully. Thayer has added a bit of his own style during the guitar solo as well. I mean, the man is just killing it on this tour. Thayer has an amazing work ethic, and it shows in the concerts. Thayer looks like he owns the place on this current tour, when I watch him.

Tommy Thayer shooting rockets in Louisville,KY on March 12, 2019
Photo: Terri Bey
Copyright: Terri Bey

In closing, I wanted to shine the spotlight on Tommy Thayer as I think fans need to know how much Thayer has contributed to the band, both on and off-stage. Thayer is an important part of the history of the band, whether fans like it or not. Thayer is also an amazing person, as I have met him several times, both as the road manager for the band, and with KISS. Thayer is a hard working person, and very kind-hearted. Thayer is awesome to the fans, as well. I have not heard one fan complain about meeting Thayer. I also have to “fan-girl” a little bit and add that Tommy Thayer is easy on the eyes, shall we say. ANYWAY, Thayer is very philanthropic, and raises money for various charities, such as St. Jude and Make-A-Wish and others. Tommy Thayer is a great person all around and I am proud to support him.

Tommy Thayer and I at the 2019 Indianapolis KISS Expo
Photo by Terri Bey
Copyright by Terri Bey
Tommy Thayer signing my End of the Road Tour Program
Photo: Terri Bey

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