Never-before-seen photos show KISS visiting Cadillac in October 1975

Jul 20, 2018 at 9:47 am
The story may sound familiar to many young readers: A band that wears face paint and is an underground success that's bubbling over in our state arrives in Michigan for a gig where they'll play music with scandalous lyrics. Mobs of young people, an army of fans, paint their faces and come out to support the band, their cars festooned with the band's logos.

But we're not talking about ICP playing Hallowicked in Detroit. The year is 1975, the city is Wexford County seat Cadillac, and the band is a group of mutant rockers flirting with superstardom called KISS.

The tale is resurrected with crisp reporting and never-seen-before archival images in a photo-story published yesterday by Getty Images. What happened? In 1975, the high school football team, the Vikings, was on a losing streak until the assistant coach started playing KISS in the locker room to fire the team up. After they started winning, the coach sent a letter to the band's managers to let them know. Not only did the band reply that the news thrilled them, they wanted to come to town for a visit.

The most surprising thing about the story is that the Chamber of Commerce types in 1970s Cadillac welcomed the group with open arms, letting them perform at the high school gymnasium, giving them the keys to the city, and letting them land a helicopter on the high school football field. The photographic record shows a surprisingly mellow meld of outrageous showmanship and small-town pride, featuring such imagery as Paul Stanley goofing off with the football team, a bunch of kids wearing KISS makeup at the homecoming parade, or the whole band posing at the old fire department on North Mitchell Street.

The photographs will seem surreal, probably even to those who lived through the experience. Aside from the makeup and wardrobe, the KISS guys mostly look just like regular dudes hanging out with their younger brothers on Halloween. Among the weirdest is the band posed behind Cadillac's leading lights — all of whom wear makeup along with their now-dowdy duds, including plaid-blazer-clad school superintendent made up with Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" look. (A little clowning comes courtesy of Gene Simmons, who appears to be strangling the supe's wife.)

You can see the full story here.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.