Monday, June 28, 2010

KISS Manager Bill Aucoin Dies at 66

Breaking sad news in the KISS family. Bill Aucoin, original manager of KISS, has died. Aucoin discovered the band, got them signed to their first record deal, bankrolled their early days, and steered the direction of the band in regards to merchandising, redefining the role of band manager the same way guys like Peter Grant (Zeppelin) and Brian Epstein (Beatles) did.

Put it this way - when I was a little kid and loved KISS, I knew who Aucoin was. Who can name the manager of a recent artist with the same degree of recognition? This is another legend passing away here.

From the AP:

Aucoin, manager who discovered Kiss, dies at 66

Bill Aucoin, who discovered the rock group Kiss and helped build them into a musical and merchandising juggernaut, died Monday in Florida. He was 66.

Aucoin died at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura of surgical complications from prostate cancer, said Carol Kaye, a family spokeswoman.

A former television cinematographer, Aucoin discovered Kiss in New York City in 1973 and helped launch the makeup-wearing, fire-breathing quartet into a moneymaking machine.

He financed the band's first tour on his personal American Express credit card when money was tight, but he was well rewarded when the band's popularity exploded in 1975 with the hit "Rock And Roll All Nite."

"He was the fifth Kiss," said drummer Peter Criss, who had Aucoin serve as the best man at his second wedding. "If it wasn't for Bill, there would be no Kiss."

Aucoin first saw the band at a showcase gig at New York's Diplomat Hotel, then brought it upstairs to meet with record company executive Neil Bogart, who signed it as the first act on his Casablanca Records label.

Criss said Aucoin had an eye for what was visually striking and recognized the vast merchandising potential of rock bands in a way that few others could. With Aucoin's help, Kiss became as famous for the vast array of products bearing their likeness — including belt buckles, Halloween costumes and makeup kits, action figurines, vitamins and even a Kiss pinball machine — as they were for their music. posted a great interview with Aucoin here.

The KISS home page has put up a splash screen with some kind words. Here is an image of it:

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