Paul Stanley – Biography, Age, & Career

American musician Paul Stanley is the co-founder, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the rock group KISS.

Who Is Paul Stanley?

Raised in New York City, Paul Stanley teamed with bassist Gene Simmons, drummer Peter Criss and fellow guitarist Ace Frehley to form the iconic hard-rock group KISS in the early 1970s. Known for their makeup-clad characters and explosive live performances, KISS achieved worldwide fame through hits like “Rock and Roll All Nite” and albums like Destroyer. Along with shepherding the band through decades of lineup turnover and shifting pop culture tastes, Stanley has pursued his interests as a New York Times bestselling author, an artist with over 15 million dollars in art sales, a designer and successful restaurateur. He continues to maintain involvement in various charities including various military organizations.

Early Years and Musical Beginnings

Paul Stanley was born Stanley Bert Eisen on January 20, 1952, in New York City, to parents Eva and William Eisen.

Born with a condition called microtia, which left him with a partially formed right ear, and deaf on that side, Stanley found his salvation in the classical music favored by his parents and the doo-wop tunes coming from the radio, and by the time he got his first glimpse of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, he knew that rock ‘n’ roll was his ticket to stardom.

Stanley purchased his first electric guitar at age 14 and began jamming with friends in his Queens neighborhood. He was accepted to Manhattan’s High School of Music & Art for his drawing skills but instead devoted his energy to playing with a group called Post War Baby Boom while spending much of his junior year shopping song compositions to publishing companies and honing his skills.

Meeting Gene Simmons and Wicked Lester

Toward the end of high school Stanley met bassist and songwriter Simmons, then known as Gene Klein. Initially put off by the older musician’s strong personality, Stanley came to quickly respect his creative zest and work ethic, and the duo teamed with guitarist Steve Coronel, keyboardist Brooke Ostrander and drummer Tony Zarrella to form the band that became Wicked Lester.

Through Stanley’s persistence, Wicked Lester earned recording time at Electric Lady Studios under the watch of producer Ron Johnsen, who subsequently landed the group a contract with Epic Records. However, both Stanley and Simmons were unhappy with the group’s lack of a definitive sound, and they struck out on their own in 1972 after completing an album for the label.

Forming KISS

Stanley and Simmons continued writing songs as they pieced together a new band with drummer Criss and lead guitarist Frehley. They found their look by establishing stage identities based on their individual personalities – Stanley became the Starchild, Simmons became the Demon, Frehley the Spaceman and Criss the Catman – and after Stanley’s suggestion all agreed on the name of KISS.

By fall 1973 KISS had signed with rookie manager Bill Aucoin and Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart, and with newfound funds from their new record label, they pushed for more pyrotechnics and theatricality that helped define the band’s live performances. KISS subsequently launched their first tour and debuted a self-titled album in February 1974, with Stanley sharing lead vocal responsibilities and earning solo songwriting credits for tracks like “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond.”

‘Alive!’ and ‘Destroyer’

Despite the increasing popularity of their shows and the rise of a devoted fan base that became known as the KISS Army, the quartet achieved disappointing sales with their first three albums.

KISS finally broke through with 1975’s Alive!, which successfully captured the high-octane energy of their live efforts and continues to be called one of the greatest live albums of all time. This record included the definitive version of the anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite.” The surging band continued its multi-platinum status with the Bob Ezrin-produced Destroyer (1976), which featured Stanley’s songwriting and vocal talents on signature tracks like “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout it Out Loud.”

Although KISS was earning more than $100 million in annual merchandise sales by the late 1970s, ongoing creative and personal tensions that were heightened by alcohol and drug abuse by two members took their toll.

Lineup Changes and Taking Off the Makeup

The departures of Criss and then Frehley in the early 1980s brought KISS into a new era with Eric Carr (the Fox) on drums and Vinnie Vincent (the Egyptian Ankh) on lead guitar. Fans offered a mixed reaction to the newcomers, however, along with a cool reception to albums like Music from “The Elder” (1981).

Seeking a creative revival, Stanley and the others ditched the makeup in a highly publicized appearance on MTV in September 1983, and KISS enjoyed a commercial comeback with that year’s Lick it Up. More lineup changes accompanied the release of albums like Asylum (1985) and Hot in the Shade (1989), with Bruce Kulick assuming lead guitar duties in the mid-1980s, and Eric Singer taking over drums by the time Carr tragically succumbed to cancer in 1991.

Leave a Reply