A couple hundred miles from the mean streets of Detroit Rock City, there was - still is, actually - a sleepy town on the edge of the Manistee National Forest up in northwest Michigan named Cadillac. Why they named their town after a car brand, we’ll never know.*
Anyway, the local football team, after a period of success, was struggling during the mid-’70s, and nobody was having any fun anymore. One assistant coach suggested introducing rock music to the locker room, settling on the dulcet tones of Gene Simmons and KISS. The experiment worked, if by “worked” you mean horribly… oh, wait, it actually did work, and the story eventually turns into what must have been one of the top 5 most badass high school moments of all time.
The MORNING SUN (MI) has the story of that fateful 1974 Cadillac team and the rock band who dared to care right back:
While coming up with an idea of whose music to play, [assistant coach Jim] Neff thought of band he had seen open for the New York Dolls. Their name was Kiss. Their elaborate stage show featured shooting flames and special effects, and their raucous, high energy music was bound to get the team pumped up. In addition, their name, spelled out in all capital letters, was the same as their saying in football, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
“So I thought, this is the perfect band,” Neff said.
So it turned out to be, with the team regaining its winning ways and head coach Dave Brines keeping in contact with the band over the project. Brines even took a few players down to a KISS show in Detroit, which would probably have been the coolest thing they could have imagined would come from the simple decision to get some rock going in the locker room.
And it would have indeed been the coolest… until local school administrators tried the “let’s not say ‘no’ to anything at all” plan, and KISS actually came to town:
Then in the fall of 1975, Neff saw that Kiss would be playing at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo right around the same time as homecoming. An idea of having a couple of the band members come up to a pep assembly and sign autographs evolved into having them bring the entire concert to Cadillac.
School Superintendent William Smith and Cadillac High School Principal John Laurent signed on to the plan, and the rest was history. Or as their fans call it, Kisstory.
Kiss cut a ribbon at the school’s door to mark their entrance, and followed a whirlwind schedule that included meeting with the football team, photos with the team and cheerleaders, and meeting students in the hallways.
That evening, Gene Simmons ignited the bonfire with his fire-breathing trick, although a confederate offered some help behind the scenes.
Awesome, yes. In fact, let’s go one better and show some actual footage from their visit.
In case you can’t watch YouTubes at work or are wildly impatient, a quick recap of what transpires in the video:
The next day, Kiss was offered the key to the city at a breakfast complete with city officials in Kiss face paint. Neff sported Kiss makeup along with City Manager Don Mason, Mayor Pete Wagner, his wife, Smith, Brines and Laurent.
That afternoon the band had its own float in the homecoming parade.
Take notes, because nothing like this will ever happen in public schools ever again. And this is Reason #5,242 why we’re sure we were born about 20 years too late.
*Yes, yes, we know.