HISTORICAL GATEWAY

A Presentation for the Wexford County Historical Society


In October of 1975, Cadillac High School in Cadillac, Michigan made Rock 'n' Roll history when KISS played at their homecoming. Several sources have called this one of the top ten stories in the history of Rock 'n' Roll. MLive recognized the KISS show in Cadillac as one of the top 30 Michigan concerts of all time. Here is how it all happened. 


Component 1 -- 1975

Cadillac

  • Cadillac had just a few clothing stores. People in town wore whatever the stores sold, so a lot of people wore similar outfits.
  • The only burger chain restaurant was a Burger Chef.
  • There were no Marts or anything approaching that size. The biggest store was Giantway. All the businesses were small.
  • There were two radio stations, both AM. One played country all the time and the other played rock just a couple of hours per day. You could only get two TV channels – CBS and NBC.
  • Athletes were required to have haircuts. Your hair could not touch the back of your shirt collar.
  • The big controversy for the girls was the length of Bermuda shorts, which had to be down to your fingertips (as you let your arms hang next to your legs).
  • The kids bought the latest record albums, but almost no one had ever been to an actual live concert. 
  • Due to budget constraints and the growth in the student population the schools became overcrowded. The result was “Split Sessions.” Basically, in “splits” the high school was divided into two sessions. The seniors and juniors went from 7:00 AM – 12:00 noon and the sophomores and freshmen went from 12:30 PM – 5:30 PM. Five straight class hours, no lunch, no study halls. 

 

The News Cycle -- "Film at 11"

  • There was no social media. The news cycle moved very slowly. 
  • Very little video/film exists. "Film at 11" was standard in the news industry. Video tape was not in wide use until around 1977 and digital did not emerge until the 1990s.

KISS Alive

  • The "KISS Alive" album was a turning point in production of all live albums. It was launched almost at the same time as the Cadillac visit. 
  • The combination of he Cadillac event and the release of "KISS Alive" came together in a perfect time. KISS became a band for everyone, not just their core fans. 

Component 2 -- Cadillac Viking Football

  • In 1973 the Cadillac Viking football team went 9-0. Cadillac finished the season ranked number 3 in the state in Class A. Dating back to the 1972 season, the Vikings had won 16 in a row. 
  • In 1974 we coaches felt that we had another good team. The season began with two heartbreaking losses. The players were downtrodden and we coaches felt like they just were not having any fun. The seemed to be trying to live up to the ’73 team instead of playing their own game to their own strengths.
  • We needed something to loosen up the team. We had always approached every game like a military campaign with dour faces and no talking in the locker room.
  • I suggested we play rock and roll in the locker room before practices and games. My thinking was that we could fire up the players if we chose the right music. I had seen them on ABC’s In Concert (while I was visiting my parents in Flint). No one in Cadillac had seen In Concert because at that time we could not get any ABC television channels.
  • They were loud, crazy, and just the ticket for us. There’s an old saying in football– Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Everything fit! 
  • So, I brought in my vinyl KISS albums and checked out a record player from the CHS library. We played KISS before practices and games as loud as the machine would go. When we went on the road I took the whole shebang with me.
  • WE WON OUR LAST SEVEN GAMES!

Component 3 -- Connection with the band

  • We won our last 7 games and finished 7-2.  During the course of that season, after we had won a few games, I sent a letter to the KISS management company, which was Rock Steady Productions. 
  • One night I was sitting in my easy chair and I got a call from Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They were backstage at a concert and were just getting ready to go on. We chatted for about ten minutes and I filled them in on how the team was doing. They gave me a phone number and asked me to call them with our scores after every game. That continued all that season and throughout the 1975 season.
  • After the end of the 1974 season, we found out that KISS was scheduled to play at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Dave Brines and I each drove a car and we took tem players from the team with us.
  • The 1975 season began and we found out that KISS was going to be in Saginaw during the same week we were in camp. We took the whole team! For most of our kids, it was the first concert they had ever seen.

Component 4 -- Young and Stupid

 

  • During that late summer and fall I had been in contact with one of the managers of KISS, Alan Miller. We noticed that they were going to be in Michigan during October, specifically in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University on a Wednesday (October 8, 1975) and our homecoming game was on Friday, October 10.
  • With this in mind, I posed a question to Alan Miller. Since KISS would already be in Michigan anyway, and since they had two days off, and since it was our homecoming week…would KISS consider coming to Cadillac and perhaps join in the festivities and sign some autographs? Alan thought that might be a possibility.
  • My brother was in a rock and roll band. So I posed yet another question. Since the KISS might be coming to Cadillac anyway, and since my brother was in a band, and since I could get my brother to bring all his equipment to Cadillac and have it all set up in the gym…would KISS consider perhaps appearing at the pep rally and do a couple of songs? Alan, however, didn’t think they would be interested.
  • Then during a practice, I was called to the phone. It was Alan Miller. Since KISS was going to be in Michigan anyway, and since it was Cadillac’s homecoming week, and since I had asked about performing, what would I think about having the whole KISS show come to Cadillac? 
  • Immediately I said “yes” – remember the young and stupid part. 
  • Coach Brines and I decided to sleep on the whole thing and not tell anyone else.This might be a great idea but it also could be something we just could not pull off. Better to think about it and tell KISS we couldn’t do it than get everyone excited and have a disaster on our hands.
  • Once I got it in my head that I was going to try to pull this off I determined that if this event was going to be just for our students it had to be kept secret as long as possible. I knew I had to clue in a few key people (like the superintendent of schools and the principal) right away. 

Component 5 -- "Yes" and "Why Not"

  • There were a whole lot of things that we (I) had to do leading up to the KISS visit and concert. As the event started rolling it sort of took on a life of its own. The two most important things said were "yes" and "why not."
  • MEETING WITH CITY OFFICIALS: The context these “officials” had in their minds were wedding bands, local teen bands at high school dances, and lip sync performances.  Trying to explain the magnitude of KISS was just impossible.
  • CHECKING FOR ACOUSTICS: “These are the worst acoustics I’ve ever heard in my life.” 
  • MARCHING BAND:  Joe Zakrajsek spent hundreds of hours writing sheet music for every instrument. 
  • TRUCKS: On the morning of the concert when the students and I got to school, there were seven semi-trailer trucks in the parking lot. 
  • STAGE: They stacked speaker upon speaker from floor to ceiling. Flame throwers and flash pots. At one point I heard the unmistakable whine of a chain saw. I ran to the noise and there were two roadies just about to cut into the wooden support that was in the center of the double doors. “We can’t get the KISS sign in unless we make the door bigger.” 
  • POWER: You just don’t plug KISS into a wall socket. We went into the transformer room and there was a grid on the transformer that looked like a half-dozen steel bars running horizontally. Through these bars ran the raw electricity for the building. The roadie had on a pair of rubber boots and he handed me a pair of rubber gloves. He said: “I need to clamp on to two of these bars but I don’t really know which ones. I’m going to clip to of them and if I guess right we’ll have power. I guess wrong, you grab onto me with the rubber gloves and pull me off.” In short, we were either going to have power or one of us (or both) were going to die.
  • DRY ICE: We recruited a kid to drive his car down to Clare to pick up the ice. When he pulled into the CHS parking lot all the windows were iced over and he was frozen like a popsicle, but the ice was in tact and we had enough to make plenty of fog.
  • SNOWSTORM: KISS knew that Cadillac was in northern Michigan and that we got a lot of snow in the winter came to me and said the band was planning a surprise for Cadillac, something they had never done before. He needed me to get some cylinders of compressed air. The only ones in town were on ambulances. The tarp was unfurled, the confetti drifted down, the compressed air cylinders were aimed and fired, and the crowd was buried in the very first KISS snowstorm!
  • MAKEUP FOR THE CROWD: We charged $3.50 for the concert and 50-cents of that went to pay for the makeup. 

 


Component 6 -- KISS Arrives

  • KISS arrived at CHS via limo on the afternoon of October 9, 1975. They met with the football team, did a sound check in the gym, posed with some Cadillac kids, and then went onto the football field for pictures with the football players, cheerleaders, and band. 
  • The band also toured downtown Cadillac and posed for pictures. 

Component 7 -- The Concert in the CHS Gym

  • This was the centerpiece of the KISS visit and is one of the most legendary performances in Rock 'n' Roll history.
  • No Cold Gin, no blood, no smoking. 
  • "It was so loud it was physically painful. It was like swimming underwater." -- Penny Phelps
  • People reported sitting in their back yards a mile away and listening to the show. 
  • 2,000 attended the concert. 10,000 claim they did. 
  • The next day, the headlines in the Cadillac News called it KISS mania. 

Component 8 -- Homecoming Day

  • CIVIC BREAKFAST: This was a monthly deal when the leaders in the community would meet before a work day began.  
  • KISS received the key to the city and officials received plaques from KISS. 
  • A plaque was also given to CHS. It was placed outside the school office and was stolen. It has never been recovered. In 2011, the Class of 1976 donated a new plaque to CHS. 

 

 

  • PARADE: KISS participated in the Homecoming Parade. Mitchell Street was renamed "KISS Blvd." for the day. 
  • HELICOPTER: KISS departed after the parade via helicopter from the stadium. As they left, they tossed flyers to the Cadillacans below: "Cadillac High --  KISS Loves You!" 

Component 9 -- Never Before and Never Again

The KISS Cadillac story has attained legendary status. At the time, the event received worldwide attention. However, due to the reporting in the '70s KISS Cadillac is something that could not happen today. 

  • No one could have predicted the success of KISS. In reality, the combination of he Cadillac event and the release of "KISS Alive" came together in a perfect time to launch the band into superstardom. 
  • As the years have passed, the story has continued. It's multi-generational and is almost mythical. 
  • Cadillac is mentioned as a part of every KISS show and is in the current "End of the Road" tour book. 
  • On a recent tour they included Cadillac Veterans Roger Bandeen and Jerry ??? as honorary roadies. 
  • The story has appeared on ESPN, VH1, MTV, countless newscasts, and on Volume 1 of the "KISSology" DVD. In print media, KISS Cadillac has been featured in books and magazines. 
  • A compilation was in a "KISS Memory Scrapbook" special Cadillacan edition on May 26, 1975. This CHS newspaper is a valued collectors item. 
  • Plus, the story shows up in some odd places, like on a wall in a Las Vegas casino or on a magazine cover. 
  • KISS Cadillac memorabilia is on sale on eBay. 

Component 10 -- 40th Anniversary in 2015


Component 11 -- The KISS Monument & Cadillac KISStory Tour

  • People come from all over the country and world to see the monument and take the tour. For example, Gary came from Buffalo, NY last fall. Margarite and Igor came from Toronto, Canada this summer. 

As Seen on WNEM TV...


Component 12 -- KISS Cadillac Lives On

"It was like being on Planet KISS."

Gene Simmons 

Do we remember Cadillac? That's not the way to put it. We can't forget you.

It's an honor to be part of this."

 Paul Stanley