THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- JUNE 15, 2019
In 1975, KISS was an outrageous band from New York City on the cusp of what would later become superstardom. On the other end of the spectrum was the small northern Michigan town of Cadillac. How they came together to celebrate the Cadillac High School homecoming has been called one of the greatest stories in the history of rock and roll.
This now legendary saga has been chronicled in newspapers, magazines, book chapters, videos, television specials and social media. Still, the story only exists in these bits and pieces and has never been told in one spot from beginning to end and beyond. It's time to create the full story as told first-hand by the people who made everything happen and the students, faculty, parents and Cadillac citizens who experienced those incredible few days.
Today, I'm launching the Cadillac KISStory Project. With your help, I want to assemble the entire tale. It's our heritage and we should “own” the story. All the details are on my personal Cadillac KISS website: www.neffcadillackiss.com.
WHY NOW – We are coming up on the 45th anniversary of Cadillac KISS in 2020. If anything, the story is more popular now than ever before. I have guided KISStory Tours for people who have come to Cadillac from all over the country and the requests keep coming with several scheduled for this summer. In addition, I continue to do media interviews (one just last month). Interest in the story continues to grow.
Part of this is what I now call “you're the guy” encounters. People come up to me at KISS concerts, events, on the street, and even recently at a local restaurant and point at me while saying “you're the guy.” Then they ask me to tell the story of how KISS came to Cadillac. It's great for my ego, but telling the short version just does not give justice to the entire story.
Right now, KISS is on their End of the Road Tour. At the Grand Rapids concert in March, the band recognized Cadillac with a shout out and featured a dozen Cadillac photos projected on a giant video screen above the stage. Clearly, Cadillac is considered a major part of KISS lore.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of renewing contacts with some people who played major roles in the 1975 event. The original New York publicist for KISS, the sound engineer for the Cadillac show, and one of the Detroit promoters who helped with the arrangements. Their Cadillac memories need to be added to the KISStory.
The sum of all this is that I continue to tell MY story. However, I continually hear from people who were at the 1975 event or influenced by it. There are thousands of great personal stories just waiting to be collected. Cadillac KISS is MY story, but it is also OUR story. This is a project waiting to happen.
HOW – My plan is to write my story from beginning to end including every detail and memory I can muster. At the same time I want to assemble an archive of personal stories from students, parents, teachers, Cadillac citizens and KISS fans. I will then weave these elements together into the definitive Cadillac KISStory. In addition, if we could rediscover original personal photos from 1975 it would add an amazing facet to the story.
STORY SUBMISSIONS – I am interested in every nook and cranny of Cadillac KISStory. Obviously, though, I cannot interview thousands of people. I need contributors to submit their stories in writing.
I want stories from the CHS students, Cadillac High staff, football players, cheerleaders, band members, parents, citizens, city officials and anyone who has a pertinent memory. I also want stories from people who may have been in Cadillac at the time, but who did not/could not/were not allowed to attend the 1975 show. I'm interested in stories from people who did not attend the 1975 event but have been influenced or moved by the story. This includes people who may not have even been alive back then, but have been fascinated and interested in the legend. The bottom line is simple. I want everyone's stories. If it relates to Cadillac KISS, I want it.
Consider this, too. No story is too long, too short, or insignificant. Sometimes, even one sentence can tell a story. For example, CHS teacher Penny Phelps once described how loud the concert was in the Cadillac High gym: “It was like swimming under water.” That single sentence is a story and mental image in itself.
To get the ball rolling, I have reorganized my personal files and to my delight I have found items that I had forgotten about and will add to the story. Also, the Cadillac News has given me permission to use their archives and photos.
PHOTO SUBMISSIONS – I recently acquired a photo taken by Cadillac parent Mary Marine. It may be the best 1975 concert photo I have ever seen. I am hoping there are scores of personal photos tucked away in scrapbooks and photo albums. Please, submit these because they are gems. Every photo related to Cadillac KISS is valuable, regardless of quality, as long is they are original photography.
LOGISTICS – In order to make the submission process as flexible as possible, I have set up three ways to make submissions. One is a secure online form that you can fill out and send. A second way is a dedicated project email address. The third is a post office box. All three are at: www.neffcadillackiss.com/cadillackisstoryproject/submissions.
Before you make a submission, please read the “Consent to Use Story, Quote, Photograph, or Recording” agreement.
PUBLISHING – The obvious publishing format for Cadillac KISStory is a printed book, but there is a lot to consider before committing to that. In addition to a traditional book format, this could wind up on a website, in a special newspaper section, be a digital download or offered as an e-book of some sort. There may be a perfect delivery method (six months from now) that has yet to be invented. It could be a combination of any/all of these. I am ruling nothing out at this point. The main priority is to complete the project.
So, this is the concept for the Cadillac KISStory Project. I have no idea how long it will take, but I do know it would be a lot of fun to pull off. The best part is that it does not cost anyone even one penny at this stage. All it takes is some time. Other than me, no one else will be out anything. The worse case scenario is we would have a written Cadillac KISStory, even if it's just for our own records. Follow the progress at www.neffcadillackiss.com. Let's own this story.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.
Neff Zone Note: The Cadillac KISStory Project is a huge undertaking and will require vast amounts of time on my part. I need to focus on this in order to complete the task. While I'm working on the project the Neff Zone weekly column will go on a semi-hiatus. Columns may appear from time-to-time, but not on a weekly schedule.
This is the front page of the October 10, 1975 Cadillac Evening News, the day after the KISS concert at Cadillac High. The newspaper was 15 cents and gas was 57 cents a gallon. In the concert photo (top right) I am in the background in a white shirt.