KISS: Behind the World’s Greatest Band, There’s an Army

Almost every band has a fan club. Sometime just after their first (and often only) hit, rock and pop artists will launch a fan club. Leave it to KISS–one of the most popular and innovative bands in the history of music–to have its official fan club born from the fans themselves.

To know the KISS Army’s story is to know America and its relationship with rock heroes and FM radio in the 1970s.  The golden age of America’s love affair with rock and roll, the 1970s saw fans highly engaged with the artists they loved–the BeeGees, Peter Frampton, the Eagles, and many more–as a community of radio listeners, with DJs serving as the mayors of these virtual communities. 

In the year 1975, one that would see the band release one of its biggest studio albums (Dressed to Kill), live discs (Alive!), and perhaps its greatest signature anthem (“Rock and Roll All Nite”), a couple of KISS fans from Terre Haute, Indiana inspired the formation of one of the longest-standing fan clubs in all of music, the KISS Army. Just four years after the band’s birth in the New York City music scene, a pair of classmates from North Vigo High School in Terre Haute, Indiana–Bill Starkey and Jay Evans (referring to themselves as the commander-in-chief and field marshall, respectively) began barraging the staff of their local FM station with one goal: getting the music of KISS played on the Terre Haute airwaves.

After a successful lobbying effort, Starkey, at the behest of the band’s publicist, eventually recruited people to the band’s Terre Haute show that fall, asking fans to “enlist” in the KISS Army. When KISS learned that Starkey’s efforts had gone viral, resulting in a sellout crowd of 10,000 at the local arena, they invited him onstage to receive a plaque commemorating his honorary membership in the band. Dinner and breakfast with the band followed, and the KISS Army took off formally shortly thereafter.

In the beginning, members could join the KISS Army for five dollars. In return, they’d receive a membership card, poster, concert photos, a complete discography of the band’s music, biographies of each member of the band, and of course, an iron-on patch! Today, for a still-reasonable sum of fifty dollars, Army enlistees receive an official KISS Army t-shirt and commemorative pin, a 10 percent discount on members-only merchandise, and advance pre-sale privileges for KISS concert tickets and VIP/Meet-and-Greet packages. 

From a band of two brothers to a legion of more than 100,000 paid members, to the current KISS Kommunity of more than 12 million Facebook fans, nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers, and more than 200,000 followers of the group’s photographic exploits on Instagram, the KISS Army is an unstoppable juggernaut that will sure outlive the band itself, forming a legacy alongside the band’s iconic merchandise, makeup and props, and most of all the music that will never die. 

Creative Allies is proud to present our greatest contest yet, honoring the continuing love affair between KISS and the KISS Army. Check out the contest page for KISSify Animals, a contest that brings together our global community of designers with KISS fans everywhere. Join in the fun, entering designs for the next wave of KISS merchandise or simply follow the contest to vote for your favorites.

 

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