GENE SIMMONS Biography - Musicians


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Name: Gene Simmons                                                                         
Birth name: Chaim Witz                                                                     
Born: 25 August 1949 Haifa, Israel                                                         
Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz on August 25, 1949) is an Israeli-born American             
hard rock bass guitarist and vocalist. He is best known as "The Demon", his               
blood-spitting, fire-breathing, and tongue-wagging persona in the hard rock band           
Kiss, an act which he co-founded in the early 1970s.                                       
Simmons was born in Israel, and at the age of eight he immigrated to New York             
City, United States, with his mother Florence Klein—a Jewish Hungarian                   
immigrant and the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust. His father           
also Jewish, Feri Witz, had abandoned his family years earlier. When Simmons was           
young, his mother's long absences while working two jobs in order to make ends             
meet left emotional scars which left him with a strong desire for wealth. After           
arriving in the U.S., he took the name Eugene Klein (later Gene Klein), Klein             
being his mother's maiden name. In the late-1960s, he changed his name again, to           
Gene Simmons.                                                                             
Simmons became involved with his first band, Lynx, then renamed The Missing               
Links, when he was a teenager. Eventually he disbanded The Missing Links to form           
the Long Island Sounds. While he played in these bands, he kept up odd jobs on             
the side to make more money, including making fanzines and buying used comic               
books. Simmons then attended Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake,         
New York. He then joined a new band, Bullfrog Beer, and the band made a demo, "Leeta";     
this song was eventually released on the Kiss box set in demo form.                       
Simmons formed the rock band Wicked Lester in the early 1970s with Stanley                 
Harvey Eisen (now known as Paul Stanley) and recorded one album, which was never           
released. Dissatisfied with Wicked Lester's sound and look, Simmons and Stanley           
attempted to fire their band members; they were met with resistance, and they             
quit Wicked Lester, walking away from their record deal with Epic Records. They           
decided to form the ultimate rock band, and started looking for a drummer.                 
Simmons and Stanley found an ad placed by Peter Criscuola, who was playing clubs           
in Brooklyn at the time; they joined and started out as a trio. Paul Frehley               
responded to an ad they put in the Village Voice for a lead guitar player, and             
soon joined them. Kiss released its self-titled debut album in February 1974.             
Stanley quickly took on the role of lead performer on stage, while Simmons                 
became the driving force behind what became an extensive Kiss merchandising               
In 1983, while Kiss's fame was waning, the members took off their trademark make-up       
and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity that continued into the 1990s. The band             
hosted their own fan conventions throughout 1995, and fan feedback about the               
original Kiss members reunited influenced the highly successful 1996-1997 Alive           
Worldwide reunion tour. In 1998, the band released Psycho Circus, its first               
album in almost 20 years by the original line-up. Since then, the original line-up         
has once again dissolved, with Tommy Thayer replacing Ace Frehley on lead guitar,         
and Eric Singer (who performed with Kiss from 1992 up through 1996) replacing             
Peter Criss on drums.