The Cat has Nine Lives; Criss of KISS

“The Cat has Nine Lives; Criss of KISS”

Post- KISS

Peter in the “Criss- Penridge Alliance”

What Peter Criss did outside of KISS: 1967 -2012
“BUZZ Newspaper” Article (#58 -pC) Jan- Feb 2016

By: RLSchwinden aka MrZerr0 & Starchild of: KISSin Time


As this is my 1st article in the new year of 2016 & approaching my 5th year of writing these things for you all, I will address one of my favorite drummers from one of my favorite bands: Peter Criss #3 as he just turned 70, last month.


> Barracudas: 1965 <

He was born George Peter John Criscuola in Brooklyn NYC, on 20 Dec 1945 the oldest of 5 kids from an Italian Father Joseph Sr.  & a Irish Mother Loretta, (his younger brother Joey would be 1 of the 1st roadies for ‘KISS’) “Georgie” as he was called then, received a toy drum-set at the age of 7 & then his 1st real kit a Slingerland Radio King in 1960. Peter’s best friend & partner -in -crime Jerry Nolan (7 May 1946 – 14 Jan 1992) gave him his 1st real lessons, Jerry & Peter were childhood friends, they were in the street gang “Phantom Lords” together, also Peter lost out to Jerry to join the ‘New York Dolls’ in Fall ’72. “Georgie” wrote his 1st song @13 “Oh, Honey, You Know I Love You Baby” Peter’s 1st real band was ‘The Barracudas’ in the early ’60s, they were already a band before Criss joined in 1962 or 63 with Carlos Cancel on Vocals & Guitar, Alan Rosen on Lead Guitar & Criss on Drums they had a regular gig @ ‘The King’s Lounge’ where they played songs like “Wipe Out” “Tequila” “In My Life” & “Green Tambourine” in 1965 they put out a 45 Single on M.F.T. Records #102 “It’s Been So Long b/w Affection” Produced By: Marty Craft, a 2nd single followed in 1966 “Chicken b/w No Use” on Delite Records #DE-502. While playing with Buddy Greco @ ‘The Metropole’ Peter was able to open for his Drummer Hero Gene Krupa (15 Jan 1909 – 16 Oct 1973) where eventually Peter was able to take lessons from Krupa.

> Sounds Of Soul: 1967 <

While playing the local NYC circuit Peter ran into his friend Joe, the 2 got to talking & they decided to form ‘The Sounds Of Soul’ with Joe Luceti on Guitar, PepeGenneralli: Organ, Angelo Opper: Bass, Tommy Ventimiglia: Sax & Jack on 2nd Guitar, this R&B band played the NYC club circuit of “Trudy Heller’s” “Night Owl” “Purple Onion” & “Cafe Wha?” they recorded a EP @ Gotham Recording Corporation on 2 West 42nd St. consisting of: “Since I Fell For You” “My Girl” & “Respect” Criss sang lead on the last song. Sometime in ’68, Ventimiglia was drafted & they renamed themselves ‘Brotherhood’ this was the 1st band Criss was in, where they really started to work in “Originals” apparently Opper then left the band in late ’68 & they evolved into ‘The Vintage’ with John Balsamo on Bass, they recorded 1 original “What Is A Man”.


> Nautilus: 1969 <

As with most bands (even into today), they evolve from1 band to another & so Genneralli & Criss went on to form ‘Nautilus’ in late ’69 with Kevin Reese on Guitar &  Peter Shandis on Bass, playing mostly originals & usually playing @ ‘The Headliner’. Peter married his 1st wife Lydia Di Leonardo on 31 Jan 1970 (with Jerry Nolan as his “Best Man”) the 2 took a trip to the UK as part of their honeymoon (where Peter picked up the exact same type of shirt white long sleeve with red stars, that Bill Ward of Black Sabbath made famous), when Criss got back to the USA he left ‘Nautilus’.

> Chelsea: 1970 <

Having left his last band, Criss ran an ad in “Village Voice” where he was called by: Peter Shepley: Vocals & Mike Brand: Guitar, they asked Criss to join with Michael Benvenga (1949-1977) on Bass & Chris Aridas on Lead Guitar, they called themselves ‘Chelsea’ & were signed to a 2 record deal with Decca Records (at the time Decca was a huge record label) they released their 1st LP: #DL-75262 in Feb ’70, the LP did not do well & the band had some issues when performing live, Aridas left the band & was replaced by; “A Greek kid from the Village” Stan “Doc” Penridge (1951- 2001) who took over on lead guitar, demos were written & recorded for a 2nd LP; “Beck” “Run Mr. Greene” “You Make Me Feel” & “Heaven With Stars Above” however Decca suffered financial difficulties in 1970 & the band were dropped in Aug ’70, & so, no 2nd LP was released. The band limped along until 1 night in Oct ’71 in Fort Lee, NJ, Brand & Shepley were late & the trio of: Penridge, Criss & Benvenga went on & decided to move forward & from then on known as ‘LIPS’.

This lineup ‘LIPS’ recorded a demo for “Buddha Records” (Neil Bogart was president of the label at this time) consisting of:  “Baby, Don’t You let Me Down” “I’m Gonna Love You”  “Hooked On Rock N Roll”That’s The Kind Of Sugar Papa Likes” “Beck” “Don’t Let The Blues Surround You” & “You’re My Woman” in the studio they used John Amato also on guitar, the band played some important gigs like ‘St. James Infirmary’ in Jan ’72, however disenchanted with the progress of the band Benvenga left, leaving ‘LIPS’ down to 2 members. Around this time Criss ran into Joey @ ‘The King’s Lounge’ & was asked to sit in with ‘Infiniti’ for a few weeks. Frustrated with going nowhere Criss ran an ad in the east coast printing of “Rolling Stone” in Apr ’72 & his brother Joey had business cards made up “Have Drum, Will Travel: Peter Criss” Joey had added the Extra “S” to Peter’s name, “It looked cooler”. This lead to a phone call from Gene Klein (Simmons) & a chance meeting at ‘Electric Lady Studios’ where Criss performed on Lyn Christopher’s 1972 Paramount LP #PAS-6051 on the song “Celebrate” (also with Stanley & Simmons), before he was hired in ‘KISS’. Criss was hired as the drummer in ‘Wicked Lester’ sometime in Jun 1972, which eventually became ‘KISS’.

> KISS: 1973- 1980 <

When Criss was in KISS he sang on these 13 songs: 1974: “Nothin To Lose” Black Diamond” “Kissin Time” “Mainline” “Strange Ways” 1975: “Getaway” 1976: “Beth” “Hard Luck Woman” “Baby Driver” 1977: “Hooligan” 1979: “Dirty Livin” 1998: “I Finally Found My Way Back To You” “You Wanted The Best” there were 5 other songs Peter demoed but not used 1976 “Ain’t None Of Your Business” “Bad Reputation” 1977 “Love Bite” 1978 “Beth (acoustic) 1979 “Rumble”. While Peter was in ‘KISS’ he released his 1st Solo LP in Sep 1978 ‘Peter Criss :KISS’ his was the only 1 of the 4 ‘KISS’ Solo LPs to have 2  singles released “I’m Gonna Love You b/w Hooked On Rock N Roll” & a short time after that followed “You Matter To Me” there was 1 out-take “Spotlights” written with Sean Delaney (1945 -2003).

Johnnie Bolin: ‘SIR Studios story’I (Bolin) was the drummer for Richard T. Bear who had played keyboards on Gene’s solo LP, who (Bear) at the time had a hit with “Sunshine Hotel” on RCA Records, Bear’s band, which included Bob Kulick (wearing a wig) was rehearsing for a tour at SIR Studios in NYC & in the main room, which was the largest room KISS was rehearsing for their “Return Of KISS Tour” in May 1979, I (Bolin) was walking through the hall & sitting there  on a bench was Peter Criss, with his right arm in a sling, & smoking a cigarette, I stopped & introduced myself & asked him how it was going? Peter said ‘Like shit, my arm is broken, I’m playing like shit, we sound like shit, awful, that’s how it’s going’ I (Bolin) ask “So is your arm really broken or are you giving it a rest?” Criss replies “Yea. its broken, what d’ya think, I got it in a cast” then Bolin asks “Well are you ok, how are you playing, if your arm is broken?” Criss fires back ‘Yea, I’m playin ok, It’s f******** rock n roll, not rocket science’
Later in 1979 Peter appeared “Sans- Makeup” on the “Lenny & Squigtones” LP #NBLP- 7149 on Casablanca Records, Criss under the name “Ming The Merciless “.

> By Myself: 1980 <

Criss was effectively fired from ‘KISS’ in May ’80 which he immediately began work on his 2nd Solo LP, but his 1st outside of ‘KISS’ in Sep 1980 ‘Out Of Control’ was released utilizing his long -time music partner Stan “Doc” Penridge & several songs not used by ‘KISS’ one 45 single “By Myself b/w I Found Love” was released there were 2 out-takes from this session:”Could It Be Love” & “You’re My Girl“. Sometime in 1981 Criss & Penridge recorded 2 versions of a “Budweiser” Commercial “This Bud’s For You” one at: 30 & 1min. In 1982 Criss 3rd Solo LP ‘Let Me Rock You’ was released in Europe only with the 45 single “Tears b/w Jealous Guy” this LP features songs by Gene Simmons & another by Vinnie Vincent, there were 2 out-takes “Jenilee” (Peter’s daughter) “Rock N Roll Survivor”. I talked to Peter about this LP in Dec ’93; Criss “It was only released in Europe, because at the time Paul & Gene felt it would interfere with ‘KISS” record sales, “Feel Like Heaven” was a song, I really liked, that Gene had from a ‘KISS’ LP that never materialized (“Louder, Harder”: 1981) since they didn’t use it I asked him if I could, no I didn’t use Doc on that album, we weren’t talking for a awhile, back then because of some stupid argument.”


Criss had not toured since Dec ’79 with ‘KISS’ so he & his musical partner Stan Penridge, of the past 14 years formed the “Criss-Penridge Alliance” & hit the road, 1 of the shows on the tour was 3 Mar 1984 in Newton, NJ. with Mike Hutchens: Guitar, Allen Woody: Bass, Tony Crow: Keyboards & John Moss: Drums, the band primary played late 50s & early 60s R&R standards, this line-up did record 4 originals: “Blame It On Love” “Run For Cover” “Tell The Valentine” & “Times Of  Our Lives” soon after in May ’84 the band got 2 new members: Benny Harrison: Keyboards & Tony Mercadante: Guitar, Stan & Peter appeared on a local Nashville TV show plugging their new band “Desperate Men” & new LP “One For The Sun” & then in Oct ’84 cut these originals: “Never Met A Woman” “Baby Hold On” & “Forever With You”.


> Face Without A KISS: 1987 <

By the late 80s Peter was not very prolific, he joined ‘Balls Of Fire’ in Aug 1986, & left after a few months. He sang with ‘Black N Blue’ on the song “Best In The West” from the LP ‘Nasty Nasty’ on Geffen #GHS-24111 with Gene Simmons & Tommy Thayer. He began work on the 1st draft of his book “A Face Without A KISS” in the Fall of ’87 & recorded the song for”Days Of My Greasepaint” to coincide with the book. In 1988 he sang on the song “Take It Off” from the ‘King Kobra’ LP “III” on New Renaissance Records. Then in 1989 Criss formed “The Tree” with Kevin Russel of “707” which soon became “The Keep” as 3 members of ‘White Tiger’ joined Criss; Mark St.John: (7 Feb 1956 – 5 Apr 2007) Guitar, Mike Norton: Bass & David Donato: Vocals, this line-up recorded these songs: “Love For Sale” “Do You Know What I Mean” “”All Night Long” “Between The Lines” & “(been a) Long Time” (several of these songs were released on St. John’s 1999 EP  “Project”) the band’s premier gig was 2 May 1990 in Lawndale, CA.

> Bad People Burn In Hell: 1993 <

The early 90s find Peter back with a vengeance, as he puts together “CRISS” with Ray Carrion: Guitar Mark Montague: Bass &  Phil Naro: Vocals, in  Nov ’91, the band’s premier gig is @ “Exposure 54” the band record these songs: “Wait For The Minute (to R&R)” “No I’m Not Afraid” “Spread The Word” “First On To Admit” “We’re All In This Together” before several line-up changes, then in the Fall of ’93 they release the ‘Criss EP’ #0004-2SE Tony Nicole Records which contains “The Cat” “Show Me” “Good Times” “What You’re Doin” “Beth” with Mike Stone: Vocals & Kirk Miller: Guitar. I saw Peter sit in with the KISS Tribute Band ‘STRUTTER’ in Dec’93 in Chicago, ILL. they performed “Strutter” “Let Me Go Rock N Roll” & “Love Gun” I had him sign a couple LPs & was able to ask him a few questions, Criss: “I plan on doing another Lennon cover for my next CD (1995) maybe “Oh, Yoko”, I was born in ’45 but they always list ’46 because I was born in Dec. age is just a stage, ya know, a frame of mind. Yea, Bogart had a statue of a maid leaning over dusting in his window to keep burglars away, (laughs). Still in touch with Glickman- Marks, no way they ripped me off for millions”

Then in the Spring ’94 the CD ‘Criss Cat #1’ on Tony Nicole Records, now with; Mike Mc.Laughlin on Guitar. In May through Dec ’95 Peter Criss & Ace Frehley embark on “The Bad Boys Tour” performing some 49 concerts together getting ready for the ’96 KISS Reunion. Criss’ performed these songs all of which were unreleased & played live: “Beg Borrow Steal” “Called You Crazy” “Crazy For Your Love” “Dont Come Crying To Me” “Knock Out” “Leave Me Alone” “My Reality” “Seeds (no evil)” “Wasting Love” “Adalyne” & “Shut Up”. This line-up did record these songs; “Surrender (in the name of love)” “Golden Arm” “The Shooter” “U Gotta Know” “Zig Zag” for a potential new CD slated in ’95, however the next CD was a Interview/Story CD, ‘Past, Present & Future’ on KISS Army International Records as Peter was unable to find a publisher for his book he had in progress, 1 demo was recorded “Easy Goin Guy” intended for the CD, but the song went un-issued.

> Found My Way: 1995 <
In late ’95 Criss rejoined ‘KISS’ from 1995 -2004, he made an appearance on the TV Series “Millennium” in 1998 as “Nice Cop #1” then on the “Family Guy” TV Series in 2001 as “Himself” , then in 2002 on the TV Series “Oz” as “Martin Montgomery” for 2 episodes. I was able to met Peter for a 2nd time in Nov. 2003. Finally in 2007 Peter’s 6th & final (so far) CD ‘All For One’ on Silvercat Records was released, this is primarily a “Easy Listening” CD, there were several other songs recorded for a pending “Rock” CD due out in 2009, those songs were “Bohemia” “Cat Nip” Crossroads” “Falling All Over Again” “Last Night” “Reason For Living” “What Does It Take” & “Whisper” so far this last CD has not been released; Criss: “I’m gonna take my time, as it isn’t really fair to the artist, you put out a record & it gets down-loaded for free & the artist doesn’t get paid”. Peter appeared in the Film “Frame Of Mind” in 2009 as “Mike”, then finally in 2012, Peter gets his book released “Makeup To Breakup” after 25 years in the making, it’s a good read, about a poor kid from Brooklyn who becomes 1 of the most famous musicians of all time.

Some of you know, some don’t, I own a Recordshop “Mr. Zero’s 55113” & I am in a KISS Tribute Band “KISSin Time” (with Peter Campbell: Catman, Anthony Wright: Spaceman & Joe Masanz: Demon) that covers the 1st 2 tours that KISS performed, so if you want to know more about KISS stop in the store, if you want to see what KISS was like in the very early years, you can catch us live in MPLS, St.Paul, Mankato or St. Cloud

Until the next time ….


Mr. Zero’s *Est.2009

1744 Lexington Ave. N.

Roseville- St.Paul, MN. 55113


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