“I was watching a Behind the Music special on Kiss,” says guitarist Wayne Riker, “and [Gene] Simmons is describing their audition for a lead guitarist, the final piece to the quartet, in January 1973. He mentions a Village Voice ad he placed and then shows a picture of a midtown loft where they held auditions.” On seeing a photo showing guitarists lined up along a steep stairwell, Riker says, “I immediately recognized I was one of the 60 or so guys, recalling vividly the locale, the long line, and the bold-lettered ad in the Voice!”
All these years, Riker says, he never realized he had auditioned for Kiss. “Their ad just read that they were forming a unique show band with serious plans of touring, no mention of a band name or any specific gimmick. Little did anyone know who they’d become. The stairwell led right into the audition room, so you could hear but not see each person playing. I was around the middle of the pack, as many of us waiting were speculating on what type of plans these guys had in mind.
“One by one, they let each of us jam with them, plugging into a huge Marshall stack. Because of the multitude of players auditioning, each person played for about five minutes, consisting of two short jams, in the obligatory keys of A and E, no specific tune, over a straight-ahead rock beat. About two weeks later, I got a phone call thanking me for the audition and saying they had found somebody.” Ace Frehley made his concert debut with Kiss on January 30, 1973.
Wayne Riker is preparing to record a new CD in October, Penumbral Sky, as well as finishing his newest instructional book, Putting Chords in Their Place. In addition, he recently joined the many other local musicians networking on Facebook. “I noticed Gene Simmons on the site and sent him a message telling him that I was one of the 60 guitarists on that infamous day, with a link to my website. He sent me a note back and immediately added me to his friend list; another six-degrees-of-separation moment. Crazy!”