20 Years Ago: Ed Kanon Replaces Peter Criss in Kiss for One Night
Kiss co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley made a big splash when they brought drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley back into the fold to reunite the band's classic lineup in 1996. But they'd carried on without Criss and Frehley before — and as they'd shortly prove, they weren't afraid to do it again.
It would take several years for the reunion to completely collapse, but the personal and creative conflicts that split the lineup in the first place hadn't completely healed. And the passage of time meant that a lifetime of music was starting to take its toll on the various band members — including Criss, who announced he was unable to perform prior to the group's April 5, 1997, gig at the Civic Center in Columbus, Ga.
Although Frehley was reportedly of the opinion that the show shouldn't go on without Criss, manager Doc McGhee quickly put together a plan, approaching drum tech Ed Kanon and telling him to shave his beard and follow him to the dressing room. As Kanon later recalled, that left-field demand was just the first surreal turn in what ended up being an utterly memorable night for him.
"I still wasn’t quite sure what was going on. He told me to come with him. We walked to the dressing room. Paul Stanley was in there," said Kanon. "He came up to me and said, 'We have good news and bad news. Bad news is Peter can’t do the show tonight. Good news is, you are.'"
Informed that Criss had said his "arms were bothering him" but that it was "too late to call off the show," Kanon didn't have much time to consider the ramifications. As he put it, "Without really thinking about it, I said ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’"
Given Kanon's familiarity with the set list, and the fact that he'd subbed for Criss during soundchecks on numerous occasions, having him sit in wasn't a huge risk. He was admittedly nervous — and he had to deal with the fact that Frehley was upset about the decision, as well as some initial hurt feelings from Criss — but he acquitted himself admirably behind the kit on short notice, and the experience proved a turning point for Stanley, who came away with a clearer understanding of what was truly necessary to pull off a Kiss concert.
"Either nobody cared or nobody had time to care," he wrote regarding the audience's reaction in his Face the Music memoir. "We weren't going to put on a show because Peter's hands hurt? I don't think so, pal."
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