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Paul Daniel "Ace" Frehley (pronounced
/ˈfreɪli/; born April 27, 1951) is an American guitarist
best known as an original member and lead guitarist for the rock
band Kiss. He took on the persona of "The Spaceman" when the
band adopted costumes and theatrics. Frehley played with the
group from its inception in 1973 until his departure in 1982.
After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a
moderately successful solo career, which was put on hold when he
rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a highly successful reunion tour. His
second tenure with Kiss lasted until 2002, when he left at the
conclusion of what was purported to be the band's Farewell Tour.
He has since resumed his solo career. On January 5, 2009 Frehley
reported on his official website that he was putting finishing
touches on his next album, Anomaly, which was released on
September 15, 2009.
Frehley was born and raised in The Bronx, the
youngest of three children. He has a sister Nancy and a brother
Charles, a classical guitarist. As a youth, Frehley was in a New
York street gang called The Duckies with Steven Edward
Duren (aka Blackie Lawless, who would later become frontman for
heavy metal band W.A.S.P.). The Frehleys were a musical family,
and when Frehley received an electric guitar as a Christmas
present in 1964, he immersed himself in learning the instrument.
"I never went to music school; I never took a guitar lesson, but
everybody in my family plays an instrument. My mother and father
both played piano, his father was the church organist, and my
brother and sister both played piano and acoustic guitar."
Frehley was always surrounded by music. Frehley started playing
guitar at age 13. He lists Jimi Hendrix, Albert Lee, Buddy Guy,
B.B. King, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who as his
When Frehley's band, Cathedral, started earning
a series of paying gigs, Frehley dropped out of high school. At
the insistence of his family and girlfriend, Frehley eventually
returned and earned his diploma. After graduation, Frehley held
a string of short-term jobs—mail carrier, furniture deliverer,
messenger, and liquor store delivery boy.
Growing up on the corner of Marion Avenue and
201st Street, off Bedford Park Boulevard (a/k/a 200th Street)
and Webster Avenue in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx,
Frehley graduated Grace Lutheran School at age 13. However, he
was thrown out of two high schools and dropped out of the third.
Two of the high schools he attended were DeWitt Clinton High
School on Mosholu Parkway and Theodore Roosevelt High School on
Fordham Road. It was in his high school years that he got the
nickname "Ace" when he had the ability to get his friends dates.
His friends said, "You are a real Ace." It was also in his high
school years that a guidance counsellor encouraged him to get
into graphic arts. (On a side note, Frehley did well in the arts
department in high school. Later in 1993, he would use his
graphic arts skills to produce art work from a computer and sell
the work in an art gallery in New Jersey). His family did not
have a lot of money, and in his teen years, Frehley got involved
in street gangs. He would later credit guitar playing for
"saving his life" as a member of Kiss.
Frehley spent the early 1970s in a series of
local bands. In late 1972, his best friend, Bob McAdams, spotted
an advertisement for a lead guitarist in the Village Voice
and showed the ad to Frehley. Both McAdams and Frehley went to
10 East 23rd Street above the Live Bait Bar. Frehley auditioned
for the trio of Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (bass
guitar) and Peter Criss (drums). Frehley (who showed up wearing
one red sneaker and one orange sneaker) was less than impressive
visually, but the band liked what they heard from his playing.
About three weeks after Frehley auditioned, the new group named
him their lead guitarist. By January 1973, Wicked Lester decided
on a new name - Kiss. Frehley designed the band's
double-lightning-bolt logo. The band quickly decided to paint
their faces for live performances, and Frehley decided to start
painting silver stars on his eyes. When the group eventually
decided to adopt stage personas to go with their makeup designs,
Frehley became "Space Ace", later the stage persona would be
known as "The Spaceman."
While Kiss spent their early days rehearsing and
playing in empty clubs, Frehley took a job as a part-time cab
driver to pay his bills. In September 1973, Kiss began to
receive a salary from new manager Bill Aucoin that paid each
member $75 a week. This enabled Frehley to quit his job.
Kiss released their debut album, Kiss, in
February 1974—Frehley's sole songwriting contribution was "Cold
Gin". Due to Frehley's lack of confidence in his own singing
voice, however, the vocals were performed by Simmons. Frehley
wrote or co-wrote several of the band's songs over the next few
years but didn't record his vocals on a song until "Shock Me"
(inspired by his near-electrocution during a concert in
Lakeland, Florida), which appeared on 1977's Love Gun.
As lead guitarist, Frehley was known for his
frenetic, atmospheric playing, becoming one of the most popular
guitarists in the 70s and spawning a generation of new players.
Indeed, Frehley stated in the book Kiss: Behind the Mask
that many guitarists have told him his playing on 1975's hit
Alive! prompted them to pick up the instrument. Frehley is
well recognized for using Gibson Les Paul guitars, including his
trademarked model conversion Cara Guitars which filled the stage
full of smoke during his live guitar solo.
According to Gene Simmons in Kiss Behind
the Mask, Frehley was drunk most of the time on tour, except
for on stage.
Along with the three other Kiss members, Frehley
released an eponymous solo album in 1978. His was the
best-selling of the four, and the album's lone single (the Russ
Ballard written "New York Groove"), originally recorded by
Hello, reached the Top 20 in the United States.
Frehley's songwriting presence within the group
increased in 1979. He contributed two songs for 1979's
Dynasty and three for 1980s Unmasked. While this was
not the best time for Kiss on a commercial level in the United
States, they were only just beginning to take off in other
countries (mostly in Australia, where Dynasty and
Unmasked are their highest selling albums). But even as his
songwriting role within Kiss was increasing, Frehley found
himself increasingly at odds with the musical direction of the
band. After Peter Criss left Kiss in 1980, Frehley was often
outvoted 2-1 in band decisions, as replacement drummer Eric Carr
was not a partner in Kiss and had no vote. Frehley's
participation in the recording of 1981's Music from "The
Elder" was far more limited than with previous albums. This
was, in large part, due to his unhappiness with the band's
decision to create a concept album rather than a straightforward
rock album, and also, by Frehley's own admission, his "not
relating all that well" to producer Bob Ezrin, who cut many of
Frehley's solos from the recorded tracks.
Exacerbating the situation was Frehley's
escalating erratic behavior and substance abuse. In April 1982,
Frehley was involved in a serious automobile accident (drummer
Anton Fig was the driver). In May, he led police on a 90-mph car
chase on the Bronx River Parkway. This incident led to a $600
fine and a six-month suspension of his driver's license.
Although Frehley appeared on the covers for 1982's greatest hits
album Killers and studio album Creatures of the Night,
he had no involvement with Killers, and minimal (no
musical) input on Creatures of the Night. Frehley's last
appearances with the band were the video for "I Love it Loud," a
series of European promotional appearances in November 1982 and
a band interview with MTV in early 1983 promoting their world