Years before John 5 toured and collaborated with the various members of Kiss, the guitar virtuoso met his childhood hero, Gene Simmons — and was so starstruck he ended up leaving without an autograph.
The guitarist, born John Lowery, tells UCR he “first met the guys in Kiss early on, like probably late ’83.” “I was probably 13, and I snuck out of school,” he elaborates. “I was from a really nice town called Grosse Pointe, Mich. We had a butler, really nice upbringing. And I snuck out, got to the worst part of downtown Detroit you could ever imagine, waited at the hotel to meet my heroes, who I’d loved since I was 7 years old, and waited there all day.”
With his vinyl copy of Kiss’ The Originals box set in hand, John 5 finally found his man. “Here comes Gene Simmons. I was like, oh my God,” he recalls. “He walked right by me and didn’t stop, and I was like, I’m not gonna let this [pass]. I risked my life coming down here. So I got in the elevator with him.”
When the moment of truth came, though, the future rocker choked. “He stood there with his arms crossed, and I had a pen and my Originals, and I’m just standing there,” John 5 continues. “And then he got to his floor, and [the door] opened. And he goes, ‘You want me to sign that?’ And I said, ‘No, it’s okay.’ I swear to God that happened. And then I just went down.”
“I was so shocked that he just wouldn’t sign it when he walked by me,” the guitarist admits. “I was a kid! A little kid alone. No one else there.”
John 5 went on to open for Kiss in the ’90s while playing guitar in Lita Ford’s band, and he has since collaborated with Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss — every original Kiss member but Simmons, whom he now calls a friend despite their inauspicious first encounter.
John 5 — whose latest solo album, Sinner, came out in October — is used to his heroes becoming his peers, having collaborated with David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Nikki Sixx, Lynyrd Skynyrd and dozens of other rock icons. Regarding his starry-eyed moment with Simmons, he jokes, “All the guys I’ve played for, I give ’em a hard time.”
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