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Peter Criss

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Peter Criss
Criss during the 1995 convention tour
Criss during the 1995 convention tour
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Peter John Criscuola
Also known as"The Catman"
Born (1945-12-20) December 20, 1945 (age 78)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
  • Drums
  • percussion
  • vocals
Years active1964–2017
Formerly of

George Peter John Criscuola (born December 20, 1945), better known by his stage name Peter Criss, is a retired American musician, best known as a co-founder, original drummer, and an occasional vocalist of the hard rock band Kiss. Criss established the Catman character for his Kiss persona. In 2014, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Kiss.[1]

Early years[edit]

Criss was born in Brooklyn, New York,[2] to Loretta and Joseph Criscuola, who raised their five children (of whom Peter was the eldest) as Roman Catholics.[3] Joseph Criscuola's family came from Scafati, Salerno, Italy. Criss grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn[4][5] and was a childhood friend of Jerry Nolan, who would later find success as the drummer of the New York Dolls.[6] He was an avid art student and a swing aficionado.[7] While playing with bandleader Joey Greco, Criss ended up studying under his idol, Gene Krupa, at the Metropole Club in New York.[8]

Music career[edit]


Criss was involved with several bands through the mid- to late 1960s, including Chelsea, who had a two-album deal with Decca Records; the group released a self-titled album in 1970. They never recorded a second album, and in August 1971 became Lips (a trio consisting of Criss and his Chelsea bandmates Michael Benvenga and Stan Penridge). By the spring of 1972, Lips was reduced to just the duo of Criss and Penridge.[9]

In 1973, Pete Shepley and Mike Brand recorded an unreleased album which included post-Chelsea Michael Benvenga, and pre-Kiss Peter Criss and Gene Simmons as session musicians. It was titled Captain Sanity.[10][11]

Another early band featuring Criss was The Sounds of Soul, notable for also featuring future New York Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan and The Elegants guitarist Joe Lucenti.


Criss with Kiss in 1977

After the demise of his band Lips, Criss placed an advertisement in the East Coast edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, which read:

EXPD. ROCK & roll drummer looking for orig. grp. doing soft & hard music. Peter, Brooklyn.[12]

The Catman

The advertisement was answered by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, who were looking for new members for their band. Ace Frehley was added to the lineup in December 1972, and the band was named Kiss later that month. However, Simmons describes first meeting Criss in his book Kiss And Make-Up thus:

One afternoon I run across an ad in Rolling Stone Magazine that said "Drummer available – Will do anything." I called the guy on the telephone, and even though he was in the middle of a party, he took my call. I introduced myself and said we were starting a band and that the band was looking for a drummer, and was he willing to do anything to make it? He says that he was, right away.

Simmons later in the chapter describes going to a small Italian Club in Brooklyn to meet the drummer: "The drummer started to sing, and this Wilson Pickett-style voice came out of him. Paul and I said, 'That's it, that's our drummer.' His name was Peter Criscuola."

Kiss released their self-titled debut in February 1974. Throughout the band's initial original lineup, Paul and Gene would sing the majority of the songs on each studio album, with Ace and Peter contributing to one or two songs. Throughout his Kiss career, in his original tenure and on the Reunion-era album Psycho Circus, Criss was the lead singer on several songs which turned out to be radio-hit and/or live favorites including "Black Diamond", "Hard Luck Woman", and their breakthrough hit "Beth".

Criss collaborated on a demo called "Beck", a song that was eventually reworked to become the ballad "Beth", a Top 10 hit for Kiss on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 7 in 1976. The song remains the highest-charting song for Kiss in the United States and it earned them a People's Choice Award for "Young People's Favorite New Song" in 1977, tied with "Disco Duck". The song was written before Criss had joined Kiss, while he was still a member of Chelsea. Criss came up with the melody for the song while on a train to New York City from New Jersey where the band practiced. He and Penridge wrote the song together.[13]

A demo exists of the song from 1971.[14]

Departure from Kiss[edit]

On the 1979 release Dynasty, he played only on his own composition, "Dirty Livin'",[15] and did not play at all on Unmasked (1980). Anton Fig, who also played on Ace Frehley's 1978 solo album, was hired as session drummer for Dynasty and Unmasked.[16] At the time, the reasons Criss was fired from Kiss were never made public, although it was obvious that his relationship with his bandmates Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley was not good at the time.[citation needed]

Gene Simmons has said Criss was fired; Paul Stanley discussed Criss's departure in several interviews, including the commentary on Kissology 2. Ace Frehley in his 2011 book, No Regrets, and he stated that Criss was fired during a band meeting in which Frehley, Simmons, Stanley and manager Bill Aucoin voted Criss out of the band. A spoken word CD released in 1999 titled 13 Classic Kiss Stories, features Bill Aucoin (Kiss's first manager) where he also discusses Criss being "let go". Criss, however, has maintained that he quit the band. The video for "Shandi" was shot in one day, and Criss was out of the band at that time; Stanley said of the shoot, "We shot a video for the song 'Shandi' after the decision to let Peter go had been confirmed. He came to the video shoot knowing it was the last time he would appear with KISS. At the end of the day, he took his makeup case with him and left. It wasn't tearful, but it was a big moment. Peter was leaving. We had fired him, and this was the last time we were going to see him in the band".[17]

Criss officially left Kiss on May 18, 1980. As a result, Kiss postponed the European tour until the end of August, thus giving the band enough time to find a replacement drummer, who they found in Brooklyn-born Eric Carr.

Beginning of solo career[edit]

In March 1980, Criss began recording his second solo album, Out of Control. Released later in the year, the album was a commercial failure, despite remaining a favorite with Criss fans. The follow-up album, 1982's Let Me Rock You, which contained one song written by Gene Simmons, was a similar failure. The album cover featured Criss without his Kiss makeup, but was not released in the U.S. at the time.

For the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s, Criss was involved with a number of bands, each usually lasting less than a year. One of them was The Keep, which featured ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John. Criss also played with Balls of Fire from the spring of 1986 to December 1986, with Jane Booke on lead vocals, Bob Raylove on bass, and JP (John Pakalenka) on guitar, who currently plays for Buckner Funken Jazz in Denver, Colorado. Balls of Fire played only seven shows before Criss left the band (reportedly to enjoy his daughter Jenilee growing up).[18] Another relatively short-lived band was the Criss Penridge Alliance, essentially Peter Criss and Stan Penridge with the 1970s jazz rock fusion band Montage (Mike Hutchens – guitar,[19] Allen Woody – bass (Govt Mule, Allman Brothers Band), John Moss – drums and Tony Crow – keyboards) who rehearsed 39 songs including from the first 3 Peter Criss solo albums, and played around 10 shows in total.[20]

While Kiss was promoting their upcoming release Crazy Nights, Criss appeared on the syndicated radio program Metal Shop and discussed his time in Kiss from a more positive perspective than before; he promoted the book he was writing at the time, an autobiography to be titled A Face without a Kiss. He also mentioned his dream of one day opening his own recording studio and starting a Catman Records label.

In the early 1990s, Criss assembled a band named "Criss", featuring future Queensrÿche guitarist Mike Stone. This band released the Criss EP in December 1993 and the Cat #1 album in August 1994.[21]

Christopher Dickinson[edit]

In 1991, a man named Christopher Dickinson began publicly impersonating Peter Criss. Dickinson did an interview as Criss with the tabloid Star magazine, in which he claimed that he was now a "homeless alcoholic panhandling for change". Phil Donahue had both men on his show where the real Criss confronted the impostor.[22]

Return to Kiss[edit]

In 1995, Criss appeared at the official Kiss Konvention in Los Angeles that led to the Kiss live performance that was recorded for MTV Unplugged. In April 1996, Kiss held a press conference to announce a reunion tour with all four original members. The 1996–97 Alive/Worldwide Tour was an enormous success, and the reunited Kiss released a studio album, 1998's Psycho Circus.

Criss played drums on only one track on the album ("Into the Void", Ace Frehley's one lead vocal track), although Criss did have one lead vocal (a track called "I Finally Found My Way", written by guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin) and a co-vocal taking turns in the verses with the rest of the band for the song "You Wanted the Best".

Second and third departures[edit]

Criss left over a contract dispute and was replaced by Eric Singer in 2001. He rejoined the band in late 2002 and appeared on the Kiss Symphony: Alive IV DVD and CD before departing from Kiss again in March 2004. The band had opted not to renew his contract following the Rocksimus Maximus Tour. He was once again replaced by Singer, who assumed the "Catman" persona. He said of Kiss performing with replacements for Ace Frehley and himself:

No matter who they get to put stuff on their face, it ain't us. You can take the mask off the Lone Ranger and put it on someone else, but it ain't the Lone Ranger.[23]

After 2004[edit]

Since 2004, Criss has kept his public appearances to a minimum. He now resides in Wall Township, New Jersey.[24] He released a solo album, titled One for All, in July 2007 on Silvercat Records. Criss performed his last solo show on June 17, 2017, in New York City at the Cutting Room.[25]

Personal life[edit]

As of November 2008, Criss has been married three times: Lydia Di Leonardo (1970–79); fashion model Debra Jensen (1979–94); and Gigi Criss (since May 1998).[26] Criss has a daughter, Jenilee, born in 1981.[26]

Criss was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.[27] While working out, he noticed a lump on his chest that prompted him to visit a doctor. He was successfully treated with a lumpectomy.[28]

Criss released his autobiography, Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss, co-written with author Larry Sloman, in late 2012. In 2017, Criss made the decision to retire from touring at the age of 71.[29]

Acting roles[edit]

In addition to playing himself in 1978's Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park and 1999's Detroit Rock City, Criss has appeared on two television programs in minor roles.

In 2002, he appeared in two episodes of the HBO prison drama Oz as inmate Martin Montgomery. He played the role of Mike in the motion picture about the JFK assassination, Frame of Mind.[30]

Criss played himself, as well as the cameo role of "Nice Cop", in "...Thirteen Years Later", the 1998 third-season Halloween episode of Millennium.[31]



  1. ^ "KISS". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  2. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 587. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ "eter Criss on Eddie Trunk 12.14.2012 (Kiss)". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  4. ^ Leaf, David (2003). Kiss. New York: Warner Books. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-446-53073-6.
  5. ^ Marchese, David (November 7, 2012). "Peter Criss Stabbed A Guy, Gene Simmons Stinks". Spin.com. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  6. ^ "Jerry Nolan Biodata". Thunders.ca. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  7. ^ "Peter Criss | Long Island Music Hall of Fame". Long Island Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
  8. ^ Leaf, David (2003). Kiss. New York: Warner Books. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-446-53073-6.
  9. ^ "Kiss Related Recordings; Peter Criss ; Lips – demo's 1970–1972". Kiss-related-recordings.nl. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  10. ^ mike brand (December 8, 2015). "Captain Sanity (Full Album)". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021.
  11. ^ "Och klockan slog ett extra slag". Alex-room-service.podomatic.com.
  12. ^ "38 år sedan". Kissarmysweden.net. April 11, 2010.
  13. ^ David Leaf, Ken Sharp Kiss: Behind the Mask – Official Authorized Biography Warner Books, 2005; ISBN 978-0446695244, pg. 268
  14. ^ CD, KISStory, Demos and Rare Songs, Vol 3, songs 1 & 2, 2008
  15. ^ "Criss Q and A". Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2009.
  16. ^ "Discography". Antonfig.com. November 27, 2019. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  17. ^ Stanley, Paul (2014). Face the Music: A Life Exposed (First ed.). New York: HarperOne. pp. 242–43. ISBN 978-0-06-211404-4.
  18. ^ "Balls of Fire". Kiss-related-recordings.nl. Retrieved February 8, 2009.
  19. ^ "Stories". Archived from the original on September 12, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  20. ^ "The Criss Penridge Alliance 1984". Alex-room-service.podomatic.com.
  21. ^ "Kiss related recordings-Criss EP". Kiss-related-recordings.nl. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  22. ^ "Exploiting our Archives: Great Moments in Western Civilization #1 Kiss Drummer Peter Criss Confronts His Homeless Imposter on Donahue". Nathan Rabin's Happy Place. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "Interview by Mark Voger". App.com. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  24. ^ Parry, Wayne via the Associated Press."2008 resolutions from Yogi, The Donald, a rock star and more" Archived December 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Burlington County Times, December 28, 2007; accessed September 1, 2008.
    "'I have a big mouth for a lot of people, but I never take my own advice and do it myself,' said Criss, who lives in Wall Township and is best known for the ballad "Beth" and his Catman makeup."
  25. ^ "PeterCriss.net – The Only Official Website of Drummer Peter Criss". Petercriss.net. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  26. ^ a b "Peter Criss". IMDb. Archived from the original on February 2, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  27. ^ "How 8 celebrities bravely battled breast cancer". Today.com. October 8, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  28. ^ Bauer, Zoe. "Famous People Who Suffered from Breast Cancer". Omg.yahoo.com. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  29. ^ Lifton, Dave (April 18, 2017). "Peter Criss Explains His Decision to Retire". Ultimateclassicrock.com. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  30. ^ Peter Criss, IMDb; accessed April 28, 2018.
  31. ^ Peter Criss, IMDb; accessed August 26, 2022.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Drummer for Kiss
Succeeded by
Preceded by Drummer for Kiss
Succeeded by
Preceded by Drummer for Kiss
Succeeded by