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About Wicked Lester

Although the band Wicked Lester never issued an official recording during their brief tenure together, the group would serve as a stepping stone for both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, both of whom later went on to form one of the '70s biggest hard rock outfits, Kiss. Simmons and Stanley met in the late '60s through a mutual friend, Steve Coronel, but it wasn't until Wicked Lester was formed in the early '70s that they reached any degree of success. In addition to Simmons (bass and vocals) and Stanley (guitar and vocals), the group also originally featured Coronel (lead guitar), Tony Zarella (drums), and Brooke Ostrander (keyboards), as the quintet received a recording contract from Columbia after only playing a handful of gigs in the New York area.

But the contract came with one stipulation, that Coronel be replaced with a more accomplished player. The request was granted (even though Simmons and Coronel had been longtime friends), as another guitarist, Ron Leejack, signed on. The newly instated lineup recorded an album's worth of tracks at Jimi Hendrix's famed Electric Lady Studios in 1971, but the songs were the complete opposite of the arena anthem/heavy metal that Kiss would later specialize in -- Wicked Lester was more a kin to the chart-topping soft rock of the day (Rod Stewart, etc.), as their sound was an amalgam of several styles, something that Simmons and Stanley didn't feel very comfortable with. Not happy with how the album came out or the band's musical direction, the founding duo promptly announced their departure from Wicked Lester, and the completed album was shelved.

When Simmons and Stanley hit the big time with Kiss in the mid- to late '70s, the unreleased Wicked Lester album gained major interest among Kiss fans -- especially after a pair of Wicked Lester songs, "She" and "Love Her All I Can," were re-cut by Kiss themselves for their 1975 Dressed to Kill album (another early Kiss song, "Goin' Blind," was credited to both Simmons and Coronel, but appears to have been written either before or after Wicked Lester). The unreleased Wicked Lester album (and its artwork) was bought by Kiss' label, Casablanca, in 1977 so that Columbia wouldn't cash in on Kiss' success by releasing the aborted record (which also included pictures of Simmons and Stanley without makeup), but bootleg copies of the album eventually began making the rounds in fan circles. 2001 saw the appearance of the first officially released Wicked Lester tracks ("Keep Me Waiting," as well as the aforementioned "She" and "Love Her All I Can") on Kiss' self-titled, five-disc box set. ~ Greg Prato