The Night Eric Carr Played His First Show With Kiss
Kiss played their first concert without founding drummer Peter Criss on July 25, 1980, introducing Eric Carr to the world at the Palladium in New York City.
It was an event a few years in the making, really. Criss had spent a majority of the late ‘70s immersing himself deeper and deeper into the throes of drug addiction. It had significantly affected not only his behavior, but also his musical ability. He had drummed on just one track for 1979's Dynasty – his own song, "Dirty Livin'" – and wasn't featured at all on the follow-up, Unmasked. Session drummer Anton Fig performed on both albums in his place.
By the middle of 1980, Criss was officially out. In his autobiography Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss, Criss remembered the moment he was shown the door. “A few weeks after I got back from my honeymoon, I got a call to come to the office because the guys had something important to discuss,” he wrote. “I got to our conference room, which had a nice bar and a huge round table and all our gold records on the walls. There they were. ‘Where is everybody?’ I asked. ‘Ah, this is between us,’ one of them said. They cut to the chase. They didn’t want me in the band anymore. I was too out of control. I had lost my chops.”
The search for a replacement began almost immediately and concluded when the band selected Eric Carr, another Brooklyn native, to sit behind the kit. Carr had spent a majority of the previous decade in one group or another and had just called it quits with his last band, Thrasher. After a quick audition, the group felt good enough about his ability and his personality to extend him an invitation to join Kiss, which he accepted.
In his memoir Face the Music, Paul Stanley remembered his first impressions of their new drummer. “He seemed like a good soul,” Stanley wrote. “Some of the other people who auditioned had acted like rock stars, thinking they would gain points for that. Eric was sweet. He eventually proved to be tortured in his own way, but he certainly was a much-needed breath of fresh air in the wake of Peter’s departure.”
Listen to Kiss During Their First Show with Eric Carr
With their first new member, Kiss was left with a dilemma, should Eric Carr carry on the Catman role or assume a new persona? “It took some time to figure out a character for Eric. Heaven forbid we put him in a character people already knew. That seemed too obvious to us, and maybe sacrilegious," Stanley recalled in his book.
"Originally, he was going to be the Hawk. We had a costume built with a protruding chest and feathers all over it. He painted a beak on his nose," Stanley continued. "But he looked like the mascot for a high school football team. All that was missing were the big foam chicken feet. It was horrible. Fortunately, he came up with the idea of the Fox. He wore the same size boots as Peter, so we used existing boots and had the platforms built up even more. The boots ended up being like stilts, and he still looked tiny next to us.”
With everything finally in order, Kiss took the stage at the Palladium to formally debut their new drummer. Carr’s sister Loretta would later recall the significance of the venue to her brother: “It was at the Palladium where, at the time, he was working with my dad delivering furniture. He had just gotten into Kiss, but still kept the job delivering furniture while he was in Kiss. So, he would rehearse with Kiss, then go and work with my dad after that.”
She went on to recount a funny episode that occurred just outside of the venue that night. “That day they were playing, the boss' sons from the furniture store saw my father and asked him ‘What are you doing here?’" Loretta said. "He told them my daughters are fans of Kiss, and in reality Eric was on the stage. So, the guy they knew was the guy behind the make-up: my brother Eric, who was delivering furniture for them, and they never knew.”
Carr spent the next 11 years beating the skins in Kiss. Sadly, after feeling a bit ill in 1991, Carr learned that he’d contracted a form of heart cancer. He passed away on Nov. 24, 1991 at the age of 41.
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