Along with Eddie Van Halen, Kiss' Ace Frehley inspired numerous up-and-coming rockers to pick up the guitar in the 1970s -- and come the '90s, was listed by just about every contemporary rock guitarist (Soundgarden's Kim Thayil, Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Pantera's Dimebag Darrell, etc.) as an important influence. Born Paul Frehley on April 27, 1951, in the Bronx, NY, Frehley began playing guitar when he received an electric six-string for his 14th birthday in 1965. Already a big fan of the Rolling Stones, Frehley was blown away when he caught a multi-band live show in N.Y.C. in early 1967, featuring both the Who and Cream among others, which solidified his desire to pursue rock guitar more seriously (and put a promising art career on the back burner). Frehley began playing in local bands soon after, adding both Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to his influences -- and around this time, adopted the nickname "Ace." Although none of the bands he played with had taken off, he answered an ad in a local paper for a new hard rock, theatrically based group in early 1973. A few weeks after his initial tryout, Frehley was hired as the lead guitarist for the new quartet, joining bassist/singer Gene Simmons, rhythm guitarist/singer Paul Stanley, and drummer Peter Criss to form the band Kiss. By year's end, the greasepaint- and costume-wearing band was signed to Casablanca Records, and by 1978, had become one of the world's top hard rock bands. A string of platinum albums and sold-out tours lasted from 1975-1979, until the trappings of fame threatened to break up the band. Frehley's best friend in the band, Criss, left Kiss in 1980, as the group unsuccessfully experimented with non-metal styles. Ace Frehley's use of alcohol and drugs increased due to his ever-increasing unhappiness in the band, and, by 1982, he'd exited Kiss. Within a year or two after his split from Kiss, Ace began putting his own solo band together, Frehley's Comet. The band played local N.Y.C. clubs, but failed to issue a record until 1987's self-titled debut for Megaforce Records. Instead of following the heavy metal direction of his exceptional 1978 solo album, Frehley's Comet tried to keep pace with the current pop-metal movement (Mötley Crüe, etc.), issuing two other albums (and a live EP) by 1989. Around this time, Frehley put his old art talents to use once again through computer graphics, with a few of his images even being featured in an art exhibit. Despite mud slinging in the press between Simmons/Stanley and Frehley in the early '90s, all four original Kiss members made up in time to reunite for a 1995 taping of MTV Unplugged. The taping was such a success that it led to a full-blown reunion of the original lineup, resulting in the massively successful 1996-1997 Alive Worldwide Tour. Frehley continued as a member of Kiss until the end of their Farewell Tour (lasting longer than fellow original member Peter Criss, who dropped out in 2001). Live appearances, including gigs at the massive Rocklahoma festival, kept Ace busy until 2009 when he released the album Anomaly on his own label, Bronx Born Records. ~ Greg Prato
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