Five decades ago, in 1973, Kiss was formed in New York City by Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. Those four aspiring rock stars created their own characters calling themselves The Demon, Starchild, Spaceman and The Catman. One year later they released their self-titled debut album and it was the beginning of a really successful career playing for millions of fans over the decades. So they became one of the best-selling bands of all time with an estimated amount of more than 100 million records sold worldwide.
But everybody needs to pay the bills until their dreams come true. Besides trying to become famous rock stars, the four original members of Kiss also had other jobs. So Rock and Roll Garage compiled which were the jobs that Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter had before and in the early days of Kiss.
Which jobs the original Kiss members had before fame
Gene Simmons worked as 6th grade Spanish teacher and more
The richest member of Kiss, Gene Simmons came to the United States when he was just a little kid. His mother was a concentration camp survivor from the holocaust. He was born in Israel and didn’t know how to speak English. So at an early age he already saw himself forced to learn new things all the time. Not only the language, but the culture and history of the country. As he recalled in an interview in Dr. Phil‘s show in 2017, he had many different jobs.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) I started working at 12 years of age, never borrowed a dime. I taught sixth-grade in Spanish Harlem, was the assistant to the director of the Puerto Rican interagency council in New York City government research and demonstration project. (Also the personal assistant) to the editor of Vogue and Glamour magazine.” Gene Simmons said. He was on the show to help a wannabe Rock star who was spending the money of his family to pursue his dream but wasn’t paying them back.
So he said:
“Have your day job, make money. Go do whatever it is that you wanna do. I mean, you can be Superman but for God’s sake, even if he is Clark Kent. He goes to work,” Gene Simmons said.
Simmons wasn’t only a regular teacher and he was always trying to teach the kids more than the books were showing. He recalled in an interview with Good Morning Britain in 2023, that he even told them about the United Kingdom and democracy at the time.
“I used to teach six-grade, I know I don’t look like your next door sixth-grade teacher. But I used to teach six-grade in Spanish Harlem in New York City. I used to tell the kids about this astonishing little island that comprises Wales, Ireland… Yes, I know all the different parts and the history.”
“I was trying to get them enthused in this astonishing political singularity they call it in science. The good natured and civil cooperation between a monarchy, that existed for over a thousand years, and democracy. They coexist together with civility,” Gene Simmons said.
Besides being a successful songwriter, bassist and singer, Gene Simmons also became an entrepreneur and investor. He has an estimated net worth of more than 400 million dollars. It’s the double of Stanley who has an estimated amount of 200 million dollars in networth.
Paul Stanley worked as a cab driver
As all the other Kiss members Paul Stanley also needed to make a living and as he said many times, he was a cab driver in New York City. He even shared that story in an interview with Arizona Central in 2019. “Look, I was a cab driver in New York City,” Stanley says. I remember driving people to Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley. I remember sitting in that front seat thinking, ‘One of these days, people are going to be coming here to see me.’ So to go from that cab to the stage was a pretty good walk.”
“That first gold album meant more to me than any of the platinum albums that followed. Because I spent my life aspiring to have that gold album and it meant that I had climbed the mountain. But the amazing thing about life, the amazing thing about Kiss is that when you climb a mountain, you’ll usually see another one next to it. Then you want to climb that,” Paul Stanley said.
He recalled that during the final Kiss show
He recalled that during the final Kiss show that happened on December 3, 2023 at the Madison Square Garden. Stanley even said that he told the people he was driving to see Elvis that one day people would go there to see him. “I’ve got all these amazing memories of playing in New York City. It’s all I ever dreamed of was to play here.”
“Back when I was driving a taxi cab in New York, one night in 1972 I picked up a couple of people who were going to Madison Square Garden. (They were going) to see Elvis Presley. They thought that I was crazy. Because I said: ‘One of these days people are gonna come here to see me and my band’. And here we are, here we are,” Paul Stanley said.
Ace Frehley worked as taxi cab driver too and more
The guitarist and singer Ace Frehley also had many different jobs in order to pay the bills until he could make a living only being a musician. The Spaceman was a furniture deliverer, mall carrier, messenger and a liquor store delivery person. He traveled with his boss overnight to a warehouse in a different state to pick up the liquor in states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They would fill up the rental truck and take it back to New York.
Curiously, just like Paul Stanley, Ace was also a taxi cab driver for a while. Their licenses were still active after Kiss already released their debut album in 1974. In an interview with American Songwriter back in 2021, the musician recalled that they did anything they could to pay the bills.
“We did anything we could to pay the bills. In the beginning, we weren’t millionaires. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Ace Frehley said.
Peter Criss worked mainly as a musician
Criss was the oldest Kiss member and was born in 1945, a few years before Ace, Gene and Paul. He started his musical career in 1964, long before his future bandmates. Peter was a childhood friend of Jerry Nolan, who ended up being the drummer of The New York Dolls.
He already was part of bands since he was a teenager and began to learn how to play after his father gave him an old Army marching band snare drum. He had the chance to study with the legendary drummer Gene Krupe at the Metropole Club in NY. All that knowledge and talent gave him the chance to be part of many bands from that area during the 60s.
Curiously, in the early 70s he joined a band called Chelsea that later changed their name to Lips. Another curious fact is that after the band dissolved, he flew to London to be part of an audition to become the drummer for Elton John.
But eventually the British pianist and singer hired Nigel Olsson. He was found by his Kiss future members after placing an advertisement in the East Coast edition of Rolling Stone magazine.