Gene Simmons is an Israeli-American bass player and singer known as the most outspoken solo member of the notorious heavy metal band Kiss.
Born in Israel in 1949, Simmons and his mother immigrated to New York City in the 1950s, where his name was changed from Chaim Witz to Gene Klein. While being groomed to become a rabbi, Simmons discovered rock & roll music, and was soon playing bass in a number of local New York bands. Simmons did a brief stint as a grade school teacher in his early 20s, before meeting Stanley Eisen, which whom he formed the band Wicked Lester. Wicked Lester’s music was never released en masse, but it was during this time that Eisen and Simmons came up with the idea of putting on shows for audiences, complete with makeup, costumes, and choreography. Linking up with Peter Criscoula and Paul Frehley, they assumed new identities and formed Kiss, which went on to become one of the most popular hard rock bands of the 1970s.
While Kiss was rising in popularity, Simmons ventured into talent scouting. In the mid 70s he failed to convince Kiss’ manager to sign a young band called Mammoth, which later changed its name to Van Halen. Simmons went on to launch his own record company, Simmons Records, and briefly managed Liza Minnelli. He also tried his hand at acting, appearing in Wanted: Dead or Alive, Never Too Young to Die, and Runaway.
Following Kiss’ 2001 Farewell Tour, Simmons jumped into various other projects. He released a successful autobiography in 2001, entitled Kiss & Make-Up, created a magazine called Gene Simmons’ Tongue, and developed his own clothing line. He also hosted the TV show Hit Men in the 2000s. In 2004, Simmons released his second solo album, ***HOLE, through Sanctuary records. Simmons still performs, and is regularly booked for private parties and corporate entertainment events.