Tommy Thayer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tommy Thayer
Thayer in 2015
Thayer in 2015
Background information
Born (1960-11-07) November 7, 1960 (age 62)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1978–present
Member ofKiss

Thomas Cunningham Thayer (born November 7, 1960) is an American musician and songwriter. He is the lead guitarist and vocalist for the American hard rock band Kiss. He was also lead guitarist for the band Black 'n Blue.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Cunningham Thayer was born on November 7, 1960, in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the nearby suburb of Beaverton, Oregon. His mother Patricia Thayer (née Cunningham) was a classically trained violinist and singer,[1] and his father, James Thayer (1922-2018), was a businessman, community leader and retired US Army Brigadier General.[2]

Early on, Thayer was raised with three brothers and a sister in a musical family, exposed to genres that ranged from classical to the Beatles and other classic 1960s pop music. Thayer's affinity for early 1970s hard rock bands led him to pick up electric guitar at age 13. After graduating from Sunset High School[3] in 1978, Thayer played in local garage and club bands, eventually forming his own group with singer Jaime St. James, which eventually took the name Black 'n Blue.[citation needed]

Black 'n Blue[edit]

Formed in November 1981, Black 'n Blue played gigs in the Portland area for over a year before making a move to Southern California in early 1983. Within six months the band signed a recording contract with Geffen Records.[4]

The band traveled to Germany in early 1984 to work with Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks, releasing Black 'n Blue in August 1984, featuring the songs "Hold on to 18" and "School of Hard Knocks," both co-written by Thayer and St. James. The follow-up Bruce Fairbairn-produced album, Without Love, was released in 1985 with Thayer, St. James and Jim Vallance co-writing the single "Miss Mystery." After touring for two months as opening act for Kiss in fall 1985, Black 'n Blue hired Kiss bassist Gene Simmons to produce the band's next studio album Nasty Nasty, released in 1986 and In Heat in 1988. The band subsequently broke up in late 1988.[5]

Although no longer a permanent member of the band, Thayer has performed periodically with the other original members of Black 'n Blue for several one-off reunion and benefit concerts. In October 2010, the band was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in Portland,[6] with all five members of the classic lineup (including Thayer) attending.[7]


John Kalodner from Geffen Records invited Thayer to play on Jimmy Barnes' Australian album For The Working Class Man (released outside the Australian market as Jimmy Barnes).[8] Both Barnes and Thayer's group Black 'n Blue were signed to Geffen.[9] The album was recorded in Los Angeles and New York in 1984–85. When interviewed some years later he recalled that the two sessions he played on included Mick Fleetwood on drums, and Billy Burnette on guitar.[10]

In 1989, Thayer co-wrote songs with Gene Simmons and played session guitar on song demos for Kiss' 1989 release, Hot in the Shade, which includes the Simmons and Thayer songs "Betrayed" and "The Street Giveth, The Street Taketh Away". That same year, Thayer recorded guitar tracks for singer-songwriter Teresa Straley and producer Pat Regan's record deal with Reprise Records.[citation needed]

Thayer co-produced and played guitar on Doro Pesch's 1991 Polygram Records release, Doro. In 1992, Thayer joined Los Angeles rock band Shake the Faith and recorded the album America the Violent, which was released in Japan in 1994. Thayer persuaded journalist Hunter S. Thompson to create the original artwork for the album cover.[citation needed] Thayer and other members of Shake the Faith continued in the band No. 9, which recorded an album for Elektra Records that was never released. The No. 9 album included a cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison".


Thayer performing live with Kiss in 2019

In 1994, Kiss' Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley hired Thayer to work part-time on their forthcoming book Kisstory, which led to other projects and eventually a full-time role with Kiss. Thayer's work for Stanley and Simmons began by performing such tasks as painting Stanley's house and cleaning out Simmons' gutters.[11]

Thayer managed the 1995 Worldwide Kiss Convention tour and the Kiss MTV Unplugged concert. In preparation for 1996's Kiss Alive/Worldwide Tour, Thayer worked with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, to help them relearn their original guitar and drum parts from the 1970s. Thayer worked as producer and editor of Kiss' long form video and film releases including: Kiss, The Second Coming in 1998, New Line Cinema's feature Detroit Rock City in 1998, and Showtime Television's pay-per-view, The Last Kiss in 2000.[12]

By 2002 and with the growing uncertainty of Ace Frehley's involvement in the band, Thayer stood by for a Kiss performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony in Salt Lake City to fill-in on lead guitar if necessary. One month later, Thayer got the call and donned the Spaceman makeup for the first time, filling in and performing onstage with Kiss at a private concert in Trelawny, Jamaica. Several TV appearances followed in 2002 including ABC's Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary Show[13] and That 70s Show on Fox.

The Spaceman[edit]

After the 2003 performance in Trelawny, Jamaica, Thayer became the lead guitarist for Kiss. In 2003, Thayer with Kiss joined forces with the 70-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (all in Kiss makeup) for a concert at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne Australia. Recorded and filmed in front of 40,000 fans, a pay-per-view, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV CD and DVD were released worldwide later that year. In 2004, Thayer produced the RIAA double-platinum selling DVD set, Rock the Nation Live!, released worldwide in 2005.[14]

Sonic Boom, the first Kiss studio album in 11 years, was released worldwide in October 2009, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard magazine album chart. Thayer co-wrote three songs on the record, including his own lead vocal debut on "When Lightning Strikes.”[15]

A new Kiss studio album, titled Monster, was released in October 2012; Thayer co-wrote 10 songs and sang lead vocal on "Outta This World".[16] Thayer produced Kiss Rocks Vegas, a Kiss live album and DVD released on August 26, 2016, commemorating the band's November 2014 residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Las Vegas) during their 40th anniversary tour.[citation needed]

In 2020, when asked by Guitar World writer Greg Prato, "What do you think your legacy will be with Kiss?", Thayer replied, "My legacy will be a guy who came in, worked hard, and was the glue that kept the band together for a long period of time. I think the kind of character and personality that I have is that of a team player and somebody who can bring people together and bind things together."[17]

Signature Epiphone Guitars[edit]

Thayer's Epiphone Les Paul signature model "Spaceman" guitar was officially released on January 1, 2013.[18] In October, Epiphone announced the first run of 1,000 guitars had sold-out.[19] He uses Seymour Duncan pickups and inspired by Jimmy Page, each signature guitar has the neck pickup covered and the bridge uncovered.[20]

January 1, 2015, saw the release of Thayer's second Epiphone signature model, the "White Lightning" Les Paul. "My new White Lightning signature model is the pinnacle of looks, style and flash,” Thayer stated, “I'm proud to put my name on a serious guitar that can be enjoyed at home or rock the biggest stages in the world."[21] In December 2016 Epiphone announced the 1,500 guitar limited edition run had sold-out.[22]

Epiphone released the third Tommy Thayer signature model guitar, the "White Lightning" Explorer in Fall 2017. "My Epiphone signature guitars are a tried and true part of my arsenal. I never leave home without 'em!" says Thayer.[23]

Public service and philanthropy[edit]

Thayer was elected to the board of trustees at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, in September 2005. He continues to serve on the board in 2019.[3][24]

Through 2006 and 2007, Thayer arranged for new musical instruments to be donated to jump-start ailing school band programs in Oregon. In February 2010, Thayer and Kiss were featured in ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition helping a family in need with new instruments for their home-based, non-profit music school.[25]

Kiss headlined Rockin' the Corps, an outdoor concert in 2005 at Camp Pendleton, California dedicated to US Marines and US Military personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.[26] In March 2007, Thayer and Gene Simmons visited the Marines of Camp Pendleton again with a rally and live performance featuring a medley of the armed forces anthems; it was filmed for an hour-long Gene Simmons Family Jewels TV special on A&E[27] that aired on Memorial Day 2007.[citation needed]

Thayer donates all royalties earned from sales of his Hughes & Kettner signature guitar amplifier to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles to support of the important medical needs of sick and injured children.[28] In 2012, Thayer was actively involved in the organization of the fundraising event "All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military", on May 18 at the Oregon Golf Club in West Linn, Oregon. The event was the kick-off of the five-year $20 million capital campaign to raise funds in support of the new Oregon Military Museum that will be named in honor of Thayer's father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer Sr.[29]

The 2014 "All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military" organized by Thayer, raised $1.2 million in one night for the museum campaign. The exclusive summer party at a private residence in Lake Oswego, Oregon featured an appearance and acoustic set by Kiss.[30] Thayer organized a similar event in 2017, with funds raised being donated to the development of the Oregon Military Museum.[31]

In 2016, Thayer along with his brother Jim Thayer Jr and Amy Maxwell, formed the Oregon Military Museum Project (OMMP), a 501(c)(3) organization representing the private fundraising for the Oregon Military Museum. Thayer is currently President of the OMMP.[32] The museum is called "The Brigadier General James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum."[33]

At its May 2018 commencement, Pacific University honored Thayer with an honorary doctorate of humane letters "in recognition of his tremendous career and philanthropic leadership efforts."[34]


with Black 'n Blue[edit]

with Kiss[edit]

with Thayer-St.James[edit]

  • The Lost Tapes (2022)

Guest appearances[edit]


Year Film Role Miscellaneous
1985 Vision Quest Soundtrack "Nature Of The Beach" Performed By the band Black 'n Blue (Thayer's band at the time, which Thayer also played Lead Guitar on and co-wrote) taken from the album Without Love was a part of the soundtrack and in the film but for unexplained reasons was left out of the official soundtrack release.
1992 Bad Channels Soundtrack Co-Wrote The Song "Blind Faith" performed by the group Fair Game on the movie's soundtrack Bad Channels (album)
1993 Life with Mikey Soundtrack Co-Wrote "Flying Blind" performed by Medicine Wheel taken from their 1994 debut album "First Things First"
1994 The Stoned Age Soundtrack Co-Wrote "Flying Blind" performed by Medicine Wheel taken from their 1994 debut album "First Things First"
1998 Kiss: The Second Coming Documentary Himself

Director Writer Producer

2002 Stealing Harvard Soundtrack Co-wrote the song “Long On Love” performed by Medicine Wheel taken from their 1994 debut album "First Things First"
2003 Kiss Symphony: Alive IV Himself Live Concert & Documentary
2004 Gene Simmons Speaking In Tongues DVD Himself
2005 Rock the Nation Live! Producer Editor Live Concert DVD
2006/2010 Gene Simmons Family Jewels Himself Reality TV Series, 3 Episodes “Uncle Gene Wants You” from Season 2 and The Season 5 Episodes “The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth” & “Gene’s Handicap”
2007 Kissology Volume Three: 1992–2000 himself

audio commentary

2009 Romeo & Juliet Vs. The Loving Dead Soundtrack Co-Wrote The Song “Open Secrets”
2012 Tanked Himself with Kiss TV Show 1 Episode
2015 Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery Voice actor of The Spaceman Direct To Video Cartoon Movie
2016 Kiss Rocks Vegas Himself Live Concert DVD/Blu-Ray
2018 KISS Vs. MCZ Himself Documentary
2018 Gamers' Choice Awards Himself for Kiss Performance Award Show
2019 The Ringmaster Himself Documentary


  1. ^ Flans, Robyn. "TOMMY THAYER - THE MUSIC LEGENDS". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  2. ^ "Local World War II hero, father of KISS guitarist, dies". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Vondersmith, Jason (August 22, 2013). "Local guitar hero". Portland Tribune. p. B1. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  4. ^ "Black N Blue & Jamie St. James". Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  5. ^ Mosqueda, Ruben. "Black 'N Blue and Jaime St. James are coming home for Portland show at Rock Hard PDX". Retrieved September 25, 2019.
  6. ^ White, Ryan. "2010 Oregon Music Hall of Fame class announced (there's gonna be a member of KISS going in)". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  7. ^ "TOMMY THAYER Discusses BLACK 'N BLUE's OREGON MUSIC HALL OF FAME Induction In Audio Interview". Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "Kiss Related Recordings; Tommy Thayer : JIMMY BARNES 1985". Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  9. ^ "Kiss' Other Members Speak Out". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  10. ^ "KISS Army Australia - Tommy Thayer Interview". Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  11. ^ "'Blabbermouth Article'".
  12. ^ "Kiss: The Last Kiss (2000)". Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  13. ^ Elber, Lynn. "TONIGHT ON ABC: 'American Bandstand' marks anniversary in TV special". Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "Kiss: Rock the Nation - Live (2005)". Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  15. ^ Weiss, Brett. Encyclopedia of KISS: Music, Personnel, Events and Related Subjects. McFarland. p. 204.
  16. ^ "ALBUM REVIEW: KISS – MONSTER". Rock Revolt Magazine. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  17. ^ "Kiss's Tommy Thayer: "My legacy will be a guy who came in, worked hard, and was the glue that kept the band together"". Guitar World. Retrieved January 4, 2022.
  18. ^ "Epiphone Tommy Thayer Spaceman Les Paul". Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  19. ^ "'Epiphone Interview'".
  20. ^ Musician's Friend. "Tommy Thayer - Ltd. Ed. White Lightning Signature Guitar 2015". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  21. ^ "'Epiphone Article'".
  22. ^ "Tommy Thayer "White Lightning" Les Paul Sells Out!".
  23. ^ "Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Tommy Thayer "White Lightning" Explorer Outfit".
  24. ^ Francis, Mike (April 22, 2012). "Gene Simmons of Kiss and Oregon's Gen. James Thayer united by WWII horror, raise funds for military museum". The Oregonian. Portland, Oregon. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  25. ^ "'Tulsa World Article'".
  26. ^ "'Blabbermouth Article'".
  28. ^ "'Blabbermouth Article'".
  29. ^ "'Statesman Journal Article'".
  30. ^ "'Rolling Stone Article'".
  31. ^ Naas, Roberta. "KISS Guitarist Tommy Thayer Teams With Zenith Watches for Military Museum Fundraiser". Forbes. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  32. ^ "Home - Oregon Military Museum Project". Oregon Military Museum Project. Retrieved December 15, 2017.
  33. ^ Stites, Sam. "Gen. James B. Thayer dies in LO at age 96". Pamplin Media Group. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  34. ^ "Honoring Tommy Thayer". Pacific University. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  35. ^ "'PodKISSt' Kiss-Themed Podcast Featuring Jigoku-Retsuden Roundtable Discussion Available". Blabbermouth. September 29, 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2009.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Preceded by Lead guitarist of Kiss