On January 30, 1973, less than 10 people witnessed the first live performances by KISS at the Popcorn Club (soon to be renamed The Coventry) in Queens, N.Y. According to bassist Gene Simmons, the group was paid $50 for performing two sets that evening.
Simmons and guitarist / co-frontman Paul Stanley had recently left their previous group, Wicked Lester, recruiting drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Ace Frehley for their new outfit. Their goal, as Simmons explained, was to “put together the band we never saw onstage.”
After their first manager quit, declaring the new band’s music “the worst crap he ever heard,” Simmons took over, cold-calling the Popcorn and convincing them to hire the band for a three-night stand for $150.
As you can see in this photograph from that era, the band’s trademark facepaint and costumes were still in an embryonic phase, but those first shows featured many of the songs on which the group would build their reputation in the coming years: ‘Deuce,’ ‘Black Diamond,’ ‘Watchin’ You’ and many more.
Since those humble beginnings, of course, KISS rose in relatively quick fashion to the top of the music industry. By the end of the decade they were arguably the biggest rock band in the world and pioneered the merchandising of rock music.
Frehley and Criss would leave the group in the early ’80s and then both returned in 1996 for the band’s highly successful reunion tour. Criss left in left in 2000, returned in 2002 and left again in 2004 while Frehley departed in 2002. Stanley and Simmons endured several career ups and downs to earn the group its current place among rock’s most enduring and popular bands.
(Photo: Lydia Criss) *Editor’s note: For clarification, the photo and video clip are not from the historic first KISS concert mentioned in this article, but it is from another show at The Daisy. We were unable to locate a photo and have never viewed any video clips from that historic first show.