Peter Criss (born Peter Criscuola on December 20, 1945) is an American rock musician. He was one of four founding members of seminal hard rock group Kiss. Nicknamed the 'Cat Man', he was the drummer and co-singer of the band, known as the mellow side of KISS singing hits such as "Beth" and "Hard Luck Woman". Yet he also brought the fire into songs such as "Black Diamond" and "Nothin' to Lose."
Peter's first solo album came out in 1978 along with the other three member's solo albums. Although receiving major play for the retro rock n roll tune "Tossin' and Turnin'", the album was the least favorite of the four, in large part because it strayed away from the 'Kiss sound' and focused on the slower, more chill sounds that Criss favored. Criss grew up listening to crooners such as Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Said facts were a sign of how the four band members had significantly drifted apart, as Criss' vision differed greatly from his associates.
In 1979, KISS released 'Dynasty'. Criss's only contribution to the album was the track "Dirty Livin'", which featured him on lead vocals. Kiss used a session drummer, the famous Anton Fig, for the rest of the album. Although Criss' aforementioned tune received kudos, the end of his role in the band was clearly coming. Despite materialistic success, his personal life also appeared in turmoil.
Criss left Kiss in 1980, with the drug and alcohol abuse plaguing his life as well as musical differences coming to a head. He started a solo career that led to sporadic touring and three additional studio releases. Some of those releases received some critical praise, such as the appropriately titled 'Let Me Rock You' (compared by Allmusic to "catnip" for the ears) that featured help from no less than Kiss' Gene Simmons.
Yet Criss had many demons to deal with. Even though Criss was featured on the 'Unmasked' album cover, he did not play a single beat on the album. The band replaced him with musician Eric Carr. Tragedy struck when Carr passed away from cancer-related complications on November 24, 1991. Kiss as a very idea, let alone a band, appeared in jeopardy. Though the group brought in Eric Singer to replace Carr, their commercial and critical fortunes had waned much from their 70s heyday.
In 1995, Criss was asked to sing with Kiss (then made up of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick, and Singer) at a Kiss Convention which ignited a spark of the idea of a reunion of the four original members. He sang "Hard Luck Woman" and "Nothin' to Lose." Later on that year, Criss joined Kiss and Ace Frehley for an acoustic session for MTV's Unplugged Series. He sang and played four songs: "Beth", "2,000 Man", "Nothin' to Lose", and "Rock and Roll All Nite".
This was the "icing on the cake" because, a year later, Criss, Frehley, Stanley, and Simmons donned the war paint (which Kiss hadn't worn since 1983) and put their larger than life boots back on for a Reunion Tour, which was the biggest tour in the world at the time. Criss was ecstatic to play with Kiss again. Criss and the others released 'Psycho Circus' in 1998. Like in the past, Criss and Frehley were credited on the album, but session drummers were used for most of the album. Criss sang the Beth-esque track "I Finally Found my Way", written by Paul Stanley.
Two years later, in 2000-2001, Kiss announced their Farewell Tour, which also became a huge series of events. About 3/4 into the tour, Criss was becoming unhappy with his salary and he was also tired of playing two hour shows every night. On the night Kiss played Trenton, New Jersey, Criss had a "tear" pasted on his face. Many people say this was a sign that Criss wasn't coming back because for the next show, Kiss had to bring back Eric Singer, who put on the 'Cat Man' make-up and finished the tour (since Simmons and Stanley owned the make-up designs, Criss couldn't stop them).
Kiss was silent in 2002, but then, in 2003, Kiss planned a once in a life-time concert event with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Criss was back behind the skins (some say they needed him to sing "Black Diamond" and "Beth", which were symphony worthy). Criss then stayed with Kiss to play on the World Dominination Tour along side Aerosmith (since the set was 80 minutes, Criss had an easier time playing). After the tour, Criss called it quits again, but on far better terms than in the old days.
On April 11, 2014, Kiss was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Earning an enthusiastic audience response when they appeared, the original band members reunited once again. Though the rockers did not perform, they all showed up in person to accept their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during the 29th annual induction ceremony and thanked their fans.