Interview with original KISS Krew member J.R. Smalling
Now, I have not read the book yet, so I hope the answers to the questions aren’t in the book. Sorry if there are.
Do you remember the spoken word intro the classic KISS live album ALIVE!? Well that was J.R. Smalling and this is his story and my interview with him.
J.R. was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in the summer of 1951. J.R. grew up listening to British hard rock bands like Cream and theThe Jimi Hendrix Experience. J.R. was lucky he could make friends easily, and he studied American Goju Karate with Sensei Albert Gotay.
J.R.’s family home was a couple of blocks away from Parkside Avenue. J.R. and his basement jamming friends (which some he still has contact with) thought that Parkside was the England closer to home, in terms of music. Parkside was a place that was very easy to buy drugs and there were many bands around like Dust, Thog, Concrete Bicycle and his band, Bobarry Smaul, a combination of every band members name. The band later changed its name to the Flying Toothpicks for the first show they ever did.
According to J.R. “Those were the glory days of hard rock in NYC”.
In late 1973 J.R. got a phone call from Richie Wise and Kenny Kerner from Dust. They had just finished producing KISS’s self titled debut album and they thought J.R. would be interested in seeing the bands historic showcase at the Fillmore East.
As all KISS fans know, they were the first band to go on Casablanca Records. Richie Wise said to J.R. “These guys are gonna be huge, and they need a guy like you to make it happen”.
J.R. had just got off the road with the J Geils Band, after an extended tour.
J.R. was knocked out by KISS’s live show like EVERYBODY who had seen them for the first time.
After the show J.R. met for a very short chat with Bill Aucoin. (We all know who that was).
J.R. went down to his office, and he had expected to be hired as a road manager. Bill had explained to J.R. that money was tight. Sean Delaney was the bands chauffeur and choreographer as well as road manager.
A few days later J.R. went to meet the four members of KISS. J.R thought the band members were cool and he had a lot in common with Gene and he thought they were all nice blokes.
Now for my interview.
What sort of sound systems (PAs) did you use then) — As opening act and special guests they had to use whatever was provided. Afterwards and until the end of TOKK in June ’76 they used Fanfare sound out of Michigan.
Subs: W Bins with 2 X 18” ElectroVoice (EV) speakers
Lows: J.B. Lansing (JBL) 4560s with EV speakers
Highs: JBL Radial Horns with JBL 2355 & 2482 drivers
Tweeters: JBL 2405
Amps were Crown DC 300s and DC150s
Crossovers were Crown VFX2s, two each side creating four-way stereo.
Limiters were Allison Gain Brains on each output
Back in those days, what was KISS’s pay for one show and is it actually true that in the early days it was all 4 members equally paid?
The bands pay varied widely but grew from opening act to special guest to headliner. Everyone received the same “advances”, as there were no profits to split until near the very end of TOKK’s time.
When did you first notice peoples egos getting in the picture?
How long were you with the band for?
Jan 74 — June 76
If you were there, what was a typical KISS songwriting sessions like?
They wrote their songs individually and usually alone
What do you think of KISS’s current lineup.
No thoughts. haven’t listened to a new KISS song since Beth.
Favorite KISS album and song?
The first 4 are all favorites
Do you have any rare merch from those days?
Do you still have contact with the band?
No. I did see Ace at his recent NYC gig on 11/24/14
How did the band members personality’s change and when?
After TOKK’s time. No idea.
After KISS, who did you work with?
Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, George Clintom: Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Dr. John, Cheryl Lynn, Evelyn King, Cameo, Michael Jackson/The Jacksons, Midnight Star, Atlantic Starr, Shabba Ranks and many more.
Thank you to Mr. J.R. Smalling for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope you all enjoy it! ☺