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© Neal Preston/CORBIS
Although the image of a catfaced Peter Criss commandeering his kit high atop a lighted riser (cue the lasers and flashpots) is forever burned into the memories of all those who saw KISS in their '70s glory, it was actually Criss' singing that got him in the band.
During his first meeting with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley at an Italian nightclub in Brooklyn, Criss started doing his best Wilson Pickett. The two leaders of Kiss looked at each other and said, "That it. That's our drummer."
A trained jazz player who learned to rock by listening to Mitch Mitchell, Criss' swinging, fluid style made Kiss' hits fly. And with his flair for showmanship (at one point he played a 20-piece Pearl kit with 34 Zildjian cymbals!), he more than fit into their over-the-top aesthetic.
As a singer, Criss easily distinguished himself on Kiss staples such as Black Diamond, Hard Luck Woman, Baby Driver and Getaway. Nothing, however, could match the drummer's solo vocal turn on the Top 10 smash Beth, which Criss co-wrote with his pre-Kiss bandmate, guitarist Stan Penridge.