Since 1876, Pepper has been providing music and service to musicians and teachers everywhere. A rather unique part of our history, which most are not aware, is with the rock group KISS. Here is the first of a three-part series on this story told in a very unique manner by one of our long-term employees.
It was 1976, my cousin and I were watching TV with the rest of my twelve family members, and I was shown a new album. It had four guys rocking out on a dimly lit stage, in what looked like clown makeup. But they looked so cool, in the silver and black leather with guitars, I was intrigued enough to investigate further. As I paged through the record booklet, I became even more fascinated. “Why is there what looks like blood on this guy’s face? And is that other guy’s guitar really SMOKING?”
After a steady diet of the Beatles, the Stones, and Top 40, I was ready for something new. Little did I know how much this band would influence me when I was learning my craft as a guitarist. I had begun to play at ten (I was thirteen in 1976) and was looking for something more guitar-oriented to listen to. While at a friend’s house, we listened to this album called KISS Alive.
I saw KISS live twice after that and they were both great concerts. Their Halloween costumes were, of course, always in KISS makeup and I used to pretend I was Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley. I have extremely fond memories of huddling around the TV when they were on a Halloween special and being about to see them live for the first time.
When I was hired at Pepper in 1992, during a tour of the building I noticed three gold records on the wall from KISS, Dressed to Kill and Alive. I didn’t think too much about them since I had left KISS behind as a childhood influence and had moved on to more chewable music like Frank Zappa, Rush and Yes. But one day I asked about the gold records and found out that Pepper actually owns this series of KISS tracks. I’m happy to say I had the presence of mind to have Dean Burtch, owner and president of J.W. Pepper and Gladwyne Music, tell me the KISS story before he passed away a few years ago.
Next: How these tracks come into the Pepper Lore