One On One With KISS Manager Doc McGhee

Doc McGhee
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– Doc McGhee

Doc McGhee has managed KISS since 1995 and though he hasn’t seen it ALL, he’s seen a lot. As a kid, he was enamored of R&B stars like James Brown and Isaac Hayes and in fact worked with both for a time but, considering he’s also managed KISS, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue , and Poison, among others, rock ‘n’ roll is his bread and butter. As KISS prepares to wind down its touring apparatus – never fear, there’s more of KISS in different incarnations after July 19, 2021 – McGhee talks about his career and life with the band.

POLLSTAR: How did you come to manage KISS?

Doc McGhee: I had Mötley Crüe open for KISS around 1983 and had Bon Jovi open for them in 1984 throughout Europe and kind of got to know them then. I didn’t really know them before that. I saw Paul at Studio 54 a few times in the late ‘70s and that’s it. Gene would always call, well maybe once or twice [during the band’s 1983-95 “Unmasked” period], and say, “I want to talk to you.” And I’d say, “Are you going to put the makeup back on?’” and he’d say, “No.”  And I’d say, “Call me when you put the makeup back on.” So around ‘95 he called and I asked, ‘Are you putting makeup back on?’ and he didn’t say anything and I said, “I’ll be right over.” They did real well with Revenge and all that but it wasn’t KISS! Their makeup was just such a big part of them.

How does KISS compare with other bands you’ve managed?

I managed, arguably, some of the biggest bands in the world for a long time and I’ve never seen this many people tattooing themselves with KISS. It’s a huge way of life. We’ve done nine KISS Kruises and I’ve been exposed to a full week with 3,500 KISS fans from 33 countries so when you see what that means to them, it’s crazy. It’s not anything that I can fathom or can understand.

You grew up an R&B fan. How did you end up in hard rock?

I wasn’t a big KISS fan, not because I didn’t like their music but I was doing James Brown and Isaac Hayes and all that when they were blowing up. When you’re in the music business, and you want to be in the music business, it’s not about your personal taste. If you want to do that, then you can just do whatever you like. I would have done R&B. I liked singer-songwriters; I liked Melanie and stuff like that. But that wasn’t for the masses. That was me fulfilling what I liked.

What’s been the most important role you’ve played as a manager? 

My role is to find an audience and find connection, things that the masses love. Change the way people think sometimes. I’m so bad that if there was a squirrel sitting on my desk, and everybody in the world wanted to see my squirrel, I’d be managing the squirrel. When you see the KISS connection in people who write, call, talk to me and tell me how important that band is in their life, and show me hundreds of thousands of dollars people who aren’t rich (though some of them are) have spent to collect things and build KISS museums in their houses; it’s mind boggling. I’ve never seen, with all of the bands I’ve had, anything to the extent of that. I’ve seen fanatical fans but never ones that tattoo themselves, to collect every little thing there is to collect that has KISS on it.

Why are the characters and makeup so vital to KISS as a band?

They came out of Kabuki and comic books and things that allow them to be the person they wanted to but couldn’t be without the makeup. They own it and they believe it. Whether or not you do or don’t like KISS, you stand there at a show and you know they believe it. There’s not a lot of people who can own this stuff and people believe it. And KISS taking on all these characters, that are not even themselves, they are able to now do the things that they couldn’t do in blue jeans and T-shirts.

How will it come to an end? There’s rumors KISS may bring on all the original members.

It’s going to be great. It’s going to be worthy of the end of the road. It will be worthy to the 45 years of KISS, the last month for sure. We want to celebrate everybody and we might bring out all the former members. We’d like to. Nobody says we hate this guy; we hate that guy; we want everybody who wants to come out.

David Lee Roth is opening on ‘The End Of The Road.’ How did you decide that?

I thought that was really cool. We like Dave a lot. Listen, David Lee Roth in the ‘70s and ‘80s was the greatest front man there was. There wasn’t anybody better than that cat. It’s going to be fun. I haven’t seen him outside of Van Halen except for that brief Sam & Dave thing, but I think when he gets out there and does his hits and some Van Halen hits, it’s gonna be cool!