KISS has left an indelible mark on popular music through its unique presentation of four distinct characters in makeup – Starchild, Demon, Spaceman and Catman – reeling off irresistibly catchy hit songs amid fire-and-explosion-filled stage shows.
Beyond the bells and whistles, the band has also distinguished itself through its remarkable longevity in an industry filled with burned-out talents and one-hit wonders. Here’s a look at the key moments in the band’s history through a half-century of rockin’ and rollin’ all night and partying every day:
1970: Paul Stanley meets Gene Simmons
Guitarist Paul Stanley, still going by his birth name of Stanley Eisen, meets bassist Gene Simmons, then known as Gene Klein, in New York City. They soon team with Steve Coronel, Brooke Ostrander and Tony Zarrella to form the short-lived band Wicked Lester.
January 30, 1973: KISS plays their first show
The original KISS lineup of Stanley, Simmons, drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley performs its first show before a sparse audience at the Popcorn Club/Coventry in Sunnyside, Queens.
August 10, 1973: The band scores their first record deal
After a show at Manhattan’s Hotel Diplomat, KISS meets TV producer and neophyte manager Bill Aucoin, who promises to land the band a record contract in two weeks. The following month KISS is announced as the first act signed Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records.
February 18, 1974: Their debut album, ‘KISS,’ is released
KISS releases its self-titled debut album, which features signature tracks like “Strutter” and “Deuce.” Three days later the band enjoys its inaugural television appearance on the Dick Clark-hosted ABC in Concert.
May 16, 1975: ‘KISS Alive!’ is released
Following the modest sales of its first three studio albums, KISS records a live performance at Detroit’s Cobo Arena. KISS Alive! gives the band a much-needed commercial boost with its release four months later.
March 15, 1976: ‘Destroyer’ is released
The band reaches new creative heights with the arrival of the Bob Ezrin-produced Destroyer. The platinum-selling studio effort features classic rockers like “Shout it Out Loud” and “Detroit Rock City,” though it is the Criss-composed ballad “Beth” that becomes the album’s biggest hit.
May 26, 1977: Their marvel comic book is released
The musicians commemorate the launch of a KISS Marvel comic book by adding their blood to the ink at the Marvel printing plant in Buffalo, New York.
September 18, 1978: The members release solo albums
All four members of KISS simultaneously release their self-titled solo albums. Frehley’s album, fueled by the Top 20 hit “New York Groove,” enjoys the greatest commercial success of the quartet.
October 28, 1978: ‘KISS Meets Phantom of the Parks’ airs
The sci-fi TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park premieres on NBC, an experience later recalled by Stanley as “humiliating.”
June 16, 1980: Criss leaves the band
Criss, who was absent from the recent studio release Unmasked, departs the band. He is soon replaced by Eric Carr, who debuts in late July under the guise of the Fox.
November 10, 1981: ‘Music From The Elder’ is released
Aiming for an ambitious concept album à la The Who’s Tommy, KISS instead misfires with Music From “The Elder,” which tops out at No. 75 on the Billboard 200.
December 29, 1982: Ankh Warrior makes his debut
Having contributed several tracks to the album Creatures of the Night, new lead guitarist Vinnie Vincent debuts as the Ankh Warrior for the start of the KISS 10th Anniversary Tour.
June 18, 1983: KISS plays for an audience of 137,000 in Brazil
Although American audiences have cooled to the act, KISS shows it still packs global clout by performing before a reported 137,000 fans at Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
September 18, 1983: KISS appears on MTV without the makeup
In a watershed moment for KISS, the band appears on MTV without makeup for the first time and introduces the video to a new single, “Lick it Up.”
December 8, 1984: Bruce Kulick joins the band
Following the brief tenure of Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick becomes the band’s third lead guitarist in as many years, his first live performance with KISS recorded for the home video Animalize Live Uncensored.
October 17, 1989: KISS scores another Top 10 hit with “Forever”
KISS releases Hot in the Shade. Its second single, “Forever,” co-written by Stanley and Michael Bolton becomes the band’s first Top 10 hit since “Beth.”
November 24, 1991: Carr passes away
The drummer was 41 when he lost his life to heart cancer.
May 19, 1992: ‘Revenge’ is released
KISS unveils Revenge with Eric Singer on drums. Produced by Ezrin, the album also features a mini-reunion with erstwhile lead guitarist Vincent, who claims songwriting credits for three tracks.
August 9, 1995: Criss and Frehley reunite with the band for ‘MTV Unplugged’
Again on the upswing following the 1994 release of the tribute album KISS My Ass, the band brings Criss and Frehley on stage to perform with Singer and Kulick on MTV Unplugged.
June 14, 1996: The four original member go on tour together
KISS announces the upcoming Alive/Worldwide Reunion tour, to feature the four founding members in their familiar makeup, from the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier in New York City. The tour becomes the top-grossing concert act of the year.
September 22, 1998: ‘Pyscho Circus’ is released featuring the original members
KISS releases Psycho Circus, the first studio album to include the original members since 1979’s Dynasty, though behind-the-scenes bickering limits the contributions of Criss and Frehley.
August 11, 1999: KISS gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The band celebrates a well-deserved place among entertainment royalty with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
October 7, 2000: Criss is replaced by Singer on tour
Criss trashes his drum set at the end of the American leg of the Farewell Tour. He is replaced by Singer, who controversially dons the Catman makeup when the tour resumes in Japan the following March.
February 24, 2002: KISS performs at the Olympics closing ceremony
KISS helps close the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games with a rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite” before a TV audience of three billion viewers.
February 28, 2003: Tommy Thayer makes his KISS debut
In Thayer’s first official show as lead guitarist, the band plays with the 70-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Australia’s Telstra Dome, a performance filmed and recorded for KISS Symphony Alive IV.
October 6, 2009: ‘Sonic Boom’ is released
KISS releases Sonic Boom, its first studio album in 11 years as well as the first with Thayer and Singer. With “Modern Day Delilah” emerging as a single to match the hits of the band’s glory days, Sonic Boom reaches No. 2 on the Billboard 200 to become KISS’ highest-charting album.
April 10, 2014: KISS is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The reunited quartet of Simmons, Stanley, Frehley and Criss show little sign of any lingering tension, though Stanley takes a shot at the band’s longtime critics with his speech.
January 31, 2019: The band embarks on their farewell tour
Forty-six years after the first KISS show, the band kicks off its End of the Road World Tour at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada.
“Biography: KISStory” chronicled the band’s five decades in the business as founders Stanley and Simmons reflect on their historic career.
After 50 years of rocking and rolling all night and partying every day, the #1 Gold Record selling band of all time, KISS, shared their story of success before finally smashing their last guitar and extinguishing the fire-breathing demon. Stanley and Simmons, along with current members Thayer and Singer, as well as guests Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), manager Doc McGhee (Motley Crue, Bon Jovi), music producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd) and more, told the wild story of the most successful and influential band in the world. Watch a preview: