Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kiss played Cadillac HS dance

This collage depicts Kiss when the hard rock band
visited Cadillac High School to play the homecoming dance
in 1975.


While many fans know Kiss recorded part of their momentous "Alive!" album in Detroit, fewer may realize the iconic band also played a homecoming week concert at Cadillac High School the same year.

Kiss came to the lower Michigan town of 10,000 on Oct. 9, 1975, just weeks after their much-heralded live double-LP was released on the Casablanca label.

Formed in New York City in 1973, Kiss comprised Gene Simmons (bass), Paul Stanley (guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar) and Peter Criss (drums).

The story of how Kiss came to perform in Cadillac begins with the high school Vikings football team.

Among the people instrumental in getting Kiss to come to Cadillac was football coach Dave Brines and assistant Jim Neff, who had seen Kiss in concert.

The Vikings had an undefeated record in 1973, but opened the 1974 campaign with two uncharacteristic loses.

Neff, also an English teacher at the school, thought to rev-up the team by playing Kiss music in the locker room before games.

The assistant coach also heralded a connection between the team's defensive game plan, Keep It Simple Stupid, and the band's KISS moniker.

Even at away games, the Vikings towed along a record player to spin the "Kiss," "Hotter Than Hell," or "Dressed to Kill" albums.

The Kiss strategy paid off with the team winning seven games in a row.

It was during this period that Neff wrote a letter to the band's management company, telling them how Kiss recordings inspired a winning tradition in the team.

After that the band and coaches traded correspondence. Kiss even asked for phone calls to notify them of the score after each game.

Kiss extended its support by sending the school a number of complementary tickets so some of the football team could experience the hard rock band in person at Cobo Arena in Detroit.

As the school year began in 1975, Neff saw that Kiss was scheduled to play at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo just a few days prior to Cadillac's homecoming.

With that luck of geography, school officials decided to ask Kiss to come to the mid-Michigan community, never expecting the band go along with the idea.

At that point, the band was on the verge of success, but yet to make any money, according to manager Bill Aucoin.

Surprisingly, the band agreed to come to the Wexford County community, but only if everyone at the high school would get into Kiss make-up, Aucoin said.

Consequently, art students at the school were given special diagrams detailing the make-up each of the band members wore. Simmons was portrayed as "Bat Lizard," Stanley as "Star Child," Frehley as "Space Man" and Criss as "The Cat."

Kiss arrived in Cadillac from the WMU gig with seven semi-trucks of gear to squeeze into the school gym.

During their two-day stay, a photographer shot as much 16-millimeter film as the band's limited budget would allow.

Kiss stayed at the Hotel Caberfae Motor Lodge and were accompanied by a police escort during their time in the city.

At mid-afternoon, they arrived at the high school for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and were welcomed by students and staff.

Kiss met the football team, marching band and other students and posed for pictures before heading to the gym for a sound check.

They later attended a bonfire, with students decked out in Kiss make-up.

Kiss began their show shortly after nine o'clock. Open to the public, an estimated 2,000 people attended, with admission set at $3.50.

Among the songs Kiss performed were "Deuce," "Strutter," "Got to Choose," "Hotter Than Hell" and "Nothin' to Lose."

The concert was the first to feature the Kiss "snow storm," actually a blizzard of confetti at the end of the show, which became a permanent part of their concerts.

The band received a paycheck of $3,000, which probably didn't begin to cover their expenses.

On Friday morning, Kiss received a key to the city at a breakfast attended by city officials. City Manager Don Mason, Mayor and Mrs. Raymond "Pete" Wagner, School Superintendent William Smith, Principal John Laurent and coaches Brines and Neff wore Kiss make-up.

During the event, the officials stood up, raised their right arms and shouted "rock 'n' roll." Kiss, in turn, presented the officials with plaques making them honorary band members.

Kiss then participated in a homecoming parade down Mitchell Street, re-named Kiss Blvd. for the day, ending at the school's Memorial Stadium.

In the hours before the game against Remus Chippewa Hills, Kiss made a dramatic departure.

A helicopter hired by the band landed on the field and whisked Kiss to a nearby airport, but not before the band tossed out 4,000 flyers which read, "Cadillac High, KISS loves you."

Cadillac defeated Chippewa Hills, 10-6, as Kiss made their way to Columbus, Ohio, for another concert the next day.

A photo spread of the visit Kiss made to Cadillac appeared in the Random Notes section of Rolling Stone magazine on Dec. 18, 1975.

In one picture, Vikings football team captain Harry Hagstrom, now a resident of Escanaba, is shown "tackling" Simmons.

Hagstrom, who went on to play football at Michigan State University, says he'll never forget the two days Kiss spent in Cadillac.

The appearance of Kiss has remained part of local lore.

For its part, Kiss achieved mega-stardom and remains as popular as ever.

Last month, they opened their Kiss Alive 35 tour by recreating their first live album at Cobo Arena. The anniversary marks the 35 years since the release of their self-titled debut LP in 1974.

The band's most recent album, "Sonic Boom," was issued on Oct. 6. Kiss shot a video for the album's first single, "Modern Day Delilah," during a Cobo performance.

In addition, Kiss is among 12 acts nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The top five vote-getters will be inducted during a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria on March 15, 2010.

With a new album and tour as well as possible rock hall infamy, residents of Cadillac have renewed opportunity to reminisce about when Kiss came to their town.

1 comment:

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