Thayer in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 4, 2012
November 7, 1960|
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Genres||Heavy metal, hard rock|
|Instruments||Guitar, keyboards, vocals|
Black 'n Blue|
Thomas Cunningham Thayer (born November 7, 1960) is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the lead guitarist for the American hard rock band Kiss, as well as the former lead guitarist for the band Black 'n Blue.
Thomas Cunningham Thayer was born on November 7, 1960, in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the nearby suburb of Beaverton, Oregon. His mother Patricia Thayer (née Cunningham) was a classically trained violinist and singer, and father James Thayer (1922-2018) was a businessman, community leader and retired Brigadier General in the US Army.
Early on, Thayer was raised in a musical family with three brothers and a sister amidst sounds that ranged from classical to the Beatles and other classic 1960s pop music. Thayer's passion for early 1970s hard rock bands drove his desire to pick up electric guitar at age 13. After graduating from Sunset High School in 1978, Thayer played in many local garage and club bands, eventually forming his own group with singer Jaime St. James, which eventually took the name Black 'n Blue.
Formed in November 1981, Black 'n Blue played gigs in the Portland area for over a year before making a move to Southern California in early 1983. Black 'n Blue had immediate success as a top draw in Hollywood's rock clubs, and within six months signed a major worldwide recording contract with Geffen Records.
The band traveled to Germany in early 1984 to work with Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks, releasing Black 'n Blue in August 1984, featuring the songs "Hold on to 18" and "School of Hard Knocks," both co-written by Thayer and St. James. The follow-up Bruce Fairbairn-produced album, Without Love, was released in 1985 with Thayer, St. James and Jim Vallance co-writing the single "Miss Mystery." After touring for two months as opening act for Kiss in fall 1985, Black 'n Blue hired Kiss bassist Gene Simmons to produce the band's next studio album Nasty Nasty, released in 1986 and In Heat in 1988. Geffen subsequently dropped the band in late 1988.
Although no longer a permanent member of the band, Thayer has performed periodically with the other original members of Black 'n Blue for several one-off reunion and benefit concerts. In October 2010, the band was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in Portland, with all five members of the classic lineup (including Thayer) attending.
John Kalodner from Geffen Records invited Thayer to play on Jimmy Barnes' Australian album For The Working Class Man (released outside the Australian market as Jimmy Barnes). Both Barnes and Thayer's group Black 'n Blue were signed to Geffen. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and New York in 1984-85. When interviewed some years later he recalled that the two sessions he played on included Mick Fleetwood on drums, and Billy Burnette on guitar.
In 1989, Thayer co-wrote songs with Gene Simmons and played session guitar on song demos for Kiss' 1989 release, Hot in the Shade, which includes the Simmons and Thayer songs "Betrayed" and "The Street Giveth, The Street Taketh Away". That same year, Thayer recorded guitar tracks for singer-songwriter Teresa Straley and producer Pat Regan's record deal with Reprise Records.
Thayer co-produced and played guitar on Doro Pesch's 1991 Polygram Records release, Doro. In 1992, Thayer joined Los Angeles rock band Shake the Faith and recorded the album America the Violent, which was released in Japan in 1994. Thayer persuaded journalist Hunter S. Thompson to create the original artwork for the album cover.
In 1994, Kiss' Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley hired Thayer to work part-time on their forthcoming book Kisstory, which led to other projects and eventually a full-time role with Kiss. Thayer's work for Stanley and Simmons began by performing such tasks as painting Stanley's house and cleaning out Simmons' gutters.
Thayer managed the 1995 Worldwide Kiss Convention tour and the Kiss MTV Unplugged concert. In preparation for 1996's Kiss Alive/Worldwide Tour, Thayer worked with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, to help them relearn their original guitar and drum parts from the 1970s. Thayer worked as producer and editor of Kiss' long form video and film releases including: Kiss, The Second Coming in 1998, New Line Cinema's feature Detroit Rock City in 1998, and Showtime Television's pay-per-view, The Last Kiss in 2000.
By 2002 and with the growing uncertainty of Ace Frehley's involvement in the band, Thayer stood by for a Kiss performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony in Salt Lake City to fill-in on lead guitar if necessary. One month later Thayer got the call and donned the Spaceman makeup for the first time, filling in and performing onstage with Kiss at a private concert in Trelawny, Jamaica. Several TV appearances followed in 2002 including ABC's Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary Show and That 70s Show on Fox.
Thayer became the lead guitarist for Kiss in 2002, performing on stage with Kiss for the first time at a private concert in Trelawny, Jamaica. In 2003 Thayer with Kiss joined forces with the 70-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (all in Kiss makeup) for a concert at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne Australia. Recorded and filmed in front of 40,000 fans, a pay-per-view, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV CD and DVD were released worldwide later in the year. In 2004 Thayer produced the RIAA double-platinum selling DVD set, Rock the Nation Live!, released worldwide in December 2004.
Kiss kicked off their Alive 35 tour in Melbourne, Australia in March 2008 to a huge crowd of 60,000 fans celebrating the 35-year history of the band. Hailed as the "Spectacular of the Year," the sold-out tour ran through Australasia, Europe, South America and North America in 2009, cumulating 100 concerts in 29 countries, to 1.5 million Kiss fans. Making an appearance on the 2009 season finale of American Idol, Thayer and Kiss were joined onstage by Idol contestant Adam Lambert for a Kiss set seen by 30 million TV viewers.
Sonic Boom, the first Kiss studio album in 11 years was released worldwide in October 2009, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard magazine album chart. Thayer co-wrote three songs on the record, including his own lead vocal debut on "When Lightning Strikes."
A brand new Kiss and Dr. Pepper TV ad debuted during the 2010 Super Bowl to an estimated 100 million TV viewers. Promotions leading up to the debut included Thayer & Kiss ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange in January 2010 in full Kiss regalia.
Kiss embarked on the highly anticipated Sonic Boom Over Europe Tour in Sheffield, England on May 1, 2010, playing 35 shows in stadiums and arenas throughout Europe through June. Kiss appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in July, kicking off Kiss's 60-date The Hottest Show on Earth Tour of North America culminating in July 2011.
A new Kiss studio album, titled Monster, was released in October 2012 debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard magazine album chart. Thayer co-wrote 10 songs and sang lead vocal on "Outta This World". During a New York City promo stop in early October Kiss performed live on the Late Show with David Letterman and Good Morning America. Kiss embarked on their worldwide Monster Tour with the Kiss Kruise II in the Gulf of Mexico and continued on with six South America stadium and arena shows through November 2012.
The Kiss Monster tour continued in 2013 covering Australia, Europe, N. America and Japan, and continued touring 2014 N. America with special guests Def Leppard on the bill.
January 1, 2015 saw the release of Thayer's second Epiphone signature model, the "White Lightning" Les Paul. "My new White Lightning signature model is the pinnacle of looks, style and flash," Thayer stated, "I'm proud to put my name on a serious guitar that can be enjoyed at home or rock the biggest stages in the world."  In December 2016 Epiphone announced the 1,500 guitar limited edition run had sold-out.
Thayer produced Kiss Rocks Vegas, a Kiss live album and DVD released on August 26, 2016, commemorating the band's November 2014 residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Las Vegas) during their 40th anniversary tour.
Kiss toured internationally in 2015 covering Japan, S. America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In a first-ever collaboration with another music artist, Kiss and Japanese idol group Momoiro Clover Z wrote and released the Japanese hit single titled "Yume no Ukiyo Saitemina" raising to #1 on the Oricon singles chart.
Epiphone released the third Tommy Thayer signature model guitar, the "White Lightning" Explorer in Fall 2017. "My Epiphone signature guitars are a tried and true part of my arsenal. I never leave home without 'em!" says Thayer.
Through 2006 and 2007, Thayer arranged for new musical instruments to be donated to jump-start ailing school band programs in Oregon. In February 2010, Thayer and Kiss were featured in ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition helping a family in need with new instruments for their home-based, non-profit music school.
Kiss headlined Rockin' the Corps, an outdoor concert in 2005 at Camp Pendleton, California dedicated to US Marines and US Military personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March 2007, Thayer and Gene Simmons visited the Marines of Camp Pendleton again with a rally and live performance featuring a medley of the armed forces anthems; it was filmed for an hour-long Gene Simmons Family Jewels TV special on A&E that aired on Memorial Day 2007.
Thayer donates all royalties earned from sales of his Hughes & Kettner signature guitar amplifier to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles to support of the important medical needs of sick and injured children. In 2012, Thayer was actively involved in the organization of the fundraising event "All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military", on May 18 at the Oregon Golf Club in West Linn, Oregon. The event was the kick-off of the five-year $20 million capital campaign to raise funds in support of the new Oregon Military Museum that will be named in honor of Thayer's father, Brigadier General James B. Thayer Sr.
The 2014 "All-Star Salute to the Oregon Military" organized by Thayer, raised $1.2 million in one night for the museum campaign. The exclusive summer party at a private residence in Lake Oswego, Oregon featured an appearance and acoustic set by Kiss. Thayer organized a similar event in 2017, with funds raised being donated to the development of the Oregon Military Museum.
In 2016, Thayer along with his brother Jim Thayer Jr and Amy Maxwell, formed the Oregon Military Museum Project (OMMP), a 501(c)(3) organization representing the private fundraising for the Oregon Military Museum. Thayer is currently President of the OMMP. The museum is called "The Brigadier General James B. Thayer Oregon Military Museum."
At its May 2018 commencement, Pacific University honored Thayer with an honorary doctorate of humane letters "in recognition of his tremendous career and philanthropic leadership efforts."