Eric Carr: The Fox Exposed

An interview with author Greg Prato on his new book about the former KISS drummer

By Peter Lindblad

A fox found his way into the KISS chicken coop in 1980, and his name was Paul Charles Caravello. That was his birth name. The rock world knew him better as Eric Carr.

It was Carr who replaced Peter Criss on drums after the man in the cat makeup defected from KISS when tensions arose over Crisss reported substance abuse issues. Until then, Carr was a relative unknown, performing odd jobs and playing in long-forgotten bands from 1966 to 1980 that did mostly cover songs, including CellArmen, SMACK and Flasher.

Encouraged by fellow Flasher Paul Turino, Carr auditioned for KISS after Crisss departure. Its been reported that while sitting outside the audition room and waiting for his turn, the members of KISS walked by Carr without their makeup on. Few outside the bands inner sanctum had ever seen such a sight.

Carrs audition was a rousing success. In fact, stories have circulated that Carr thought the rest of KISS played awful in the tryout, and that because he knew their songs inside-out, it was Carr who had to, on occasion, tell the rest of the band what to play.

Carr was eventually hired, but it took a while to come up with the perfect stage persona for the newest member of KISS. After giving the Hawk a go, Carr and company settled on the Fox, having also changed his name from Caravello to Carr in joining KISS. His coming-out party came during a 1980 episode of Kids Are People Too. Then it was time to go live, with Carr playing his first KISS concert at New York Citys The Palladium in July of that year.

Immediately, Carr made an impression with a heavier, more punishing drum sound than Criss had brought to KISS originally. Perhaps, in hindsight, it was Carrs misfortune to make his initial appearance with KISS on record with Music From The Elder. A huge curveball from a glam band known for balls-out, hook-filled rock and roll and campy, over-the-top theatrics, KISSs 15th album was an attempt at serious art-rock that was a reach for the band and confused just about everybody used to the rollicking hard rock that made the band famous. Carr had a chance to show off his musical chops, not only on drums but also by playing guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. But, the album was panned by pretty much the entire free world.

As it turned out, The Elder was just a bump in the road as KISS rebounded in spectacular fashion with Creatures of the Night, which saw KISS morph into a powerful, sleek heavy metal machine. The engine was Carr, who later was able to show off his singing prowess in overdubbing lead vocals something he also did live on seminal KISS songs Black Diamond and Young and Wasted to the classic KISS ballad Beth for the greatest-hits collection Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. Carr survived through the infamous KISS unmasking phase, and played on five more albums of original material, always hoping to take on a bigger role with the band.

Working with another KISS newcomer, guitarist Bruce Kulick, Carr was instrumental in creating the track Little Caesar in 1989 for the Hot in the Shade album, playing bass and drums on the song and writing the music for it. Darker days were coming, however. In March, 1991, Carr began coughing up blood and feeling heavy in his chest. Initial diagnoses didnt detect anything serious, but later, it was determined that Carr had contracted heart cancer. Surgeries were conducted to remove tumors from his heart and lungs, and by July, he was feeling well enough to go to Los Angeles to play drums in the video for God Gave Rock and Roll To You. There was a brief remission, and Carr made an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards with KISS in September. It was his last with the band.

At age 41, after beating back an aneurysm, Carr died of a brain hemorrhage. Carr being one of the most accessible and fan-friendly members KISS has ever had, it seemed only fitting that his funeral would be open to the public. A new book from author Greg Prato about Carr and KISSs 1980s period reveals much about Carr and his time with the hottest band in the world. 

What made you want to write a book about Eric Carr?

Greg Prato: The majority of Kiss books that have been released over the past 15 years or so seemed to have little to do with the groups 1980s/non-make-up era, and certainly not that much on the true story of Eric Carr. Kisss 1982 album, Creatures of the Night, I feel is one of the greatest Kiss albums of all-time (and one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all-time, too), and a major reason why the album sounds as heavy has it does is largely due to Erics mammoth drum sound. There were also always a lot of questions surrounding what Erics relationship with the other members of Kiss was like during the last year of his life (as well as his standing in the band), when he was struggling with cancer. Weve heard Gene Simmons and Paul Stanleys side of the story here and there over the years, and I felt it was time to hear the other side of the story, as well, so I got in touch with many people who knew Eric personally. So ... thats how The Eric Carr Story book came about.

Some people might not be aware of the career Eric had before joining KISS and what other jobs he held during that time. Does the book delve much into his early days as a musician with Flasher, SMACK and Cellarmen?

GP: Yes, the first chapter is comprised of Erics sister, Loretta Caravello, recounting Erics early years, which included him working such jobs as a stove repairman, as well as playing in bands. And this chapter covers many of his pre-Kiss bands.

Speaking to some of the people who knew Eric best, what did they tell you about Erics audition for KISS?

GP: Both Bill Aucoin and Loretta had some cool stories about this part of Eric's life Loretta talks about being present when Eric got the call from Bill to set up a tryout, and Bill talks about how the tryout went. It was Erics easygoing personality that gave him the edge over the other drummer hopefuls the clincher being when he asked Ace, Gene, and Paul to autograph a copy of Unmasked that he had brought along to the tryout.

It was difficult coming up with a KISS persona for Eric. What did you find out about how The Fox came about?

GP: Originally, Eric's make-up/costume design was to resemble a hawk, but it came out looking too much like Big Bird from Sesame StreetThe Fox make-up/costume design was a last minute creation by Eric and Bill, supposedly the night before the Ace-Eric-Gene-Paul line-up was going to play its debut show at the Palladium in NYC (which we learn in the book was attended by Eddie Trunk and Anthraxs Charlie Benante!). After the show, Bill suggested Eric refine the make-up design a bit, and by the time the group launched their European tour shortly thereafter, Eric's official fox design was in place.

How did Eric feel about replacing Peter Criss, and did he find it easy to fit in with the rest of the band?

GP: I remember once seeing an interview with Gene Simmons, in which he claims that Eric actually called Peter to ask if he was OK with him replacing him, and that Peter gave him his blessing to do so. Eric seemed to fit in well with the band from the get-go, and as a fan, I cant recall another replacement member of a well-known band that was as instantly and widely accepted as Eric was in Kiss.

How close was Eric to Bruce Kulick, and what does Bruce remember most about Eric?

GP: Eric and Bruce were very close. When I spoke to Bruces brother, Bob Kulick, for the book, he explained it as Gene and Paul being two peas in a pod, and Eric and Bruce being two peas in another pod meaning that since Gene and Paul were original members, they were calling all the shots. Since Eric and Bruce were replacement members, they didn't have as much of a say in Kiss' decision making, and that after a few years, Eric had an issue with it.

Interestingly, Erics first album with KISS was Music from The Elder, an LP that was so different from anything else in KISSs catalog. One of the subplots to the book is KISSs 80s period. How comfortable was Eric in helping usher in this new era for KISS?

GP: Eric and Ace made their opinions known that they thought an indulgent concept album was not the way to go at that point in their career. And they were absolutely right. Its too bad they didn't release Creatures of the Night at that time, because I think that is the type of album that Kiss fans were clamoring for in 1981 (I know I was!). Many fans seem to feel that Creatures was the first Kiss album in which Erics talents shined through, and I wholeheartedly agree.

In talking to some of the people close to Eric, what was he most proud of during his time with KISS? And what did they think he brought to the band that wasnt there before?

GP: I think he was proud of his drum sound on Creatures, and although it wasnt a strong seller upon its initial release, and the fact that over the years, many fans went on to consider it one of Kisss best albums (and in my mind, without question the best album Kiss issued in the 80s). He also seemed to be proud of the Kiss songs that he helped co-write over the years, probably most notably the song "Little Caesar" off Hot in the Shade, which he co-wrote and also sang lead vocals on. I also think he brought a much more hard rock/heavy metal style of drumming to Kiss whereas Peter Criss was more of a traditional rock n roll style drummer.

When did it become apparent to those around Eric that he was really struggling health-wise?

GP: There are conflicting reports some people I interviewed said that he was experiencing discomfort towards the end of the Hot in the Shade tour (which wrapped up in late 1990), while some say it wasnt until 1991. Similar to Ronnie James Dios current cancer battle, it appeared as though Eric had beaten cancer at one point, but it ultimately returned more aggressively, and eventually claimed his life.

What did you find out about Eric that you didnt know before in researching his life?

GP: Both Loretta and Erics girlfriend, Carrie Stevens, explained what he was like away from the wild world of Kiss, which is pretty cool. And I also didnt know that Eric tended to struggle with his role in Kiss (regarding not being an original member, and being on salary), which is discussed in greater detail by those close to the band at that time.

Eric seemed to be really open and engaging with KISS fans. Did you include any stories of Erics interaction with fans in the book?

GP: Bruce talks about how great Erics interaction was the fans in the book. And none other than Eddie Trunk (one of the co-hosts of That Metal Show on VH-1 Classic) tells a very cool story in the book about he and his friends meeting and hanging out with Eric on the Lick It Up tour. Also, the director of the Tale of the Fox DVD, Jack Sawyers, has a few cool stories about hanging out with Eric as a fan (and then later becoming friends with him).

How do you think Eric wanted to be remembered?

GP: As probably one of the more underrated members of Kiss, and the fact that his drumming was a HUGE reason why Creatures of the Night kicks ass (and has held up so great over the years). And his talents stretched beyond just drumming, as evidenced by his songwriting and singing skills. He also seemed to be a really approachable person something that seems uncommon with a member of one of rocks biggest bands.

Whats purported to be one of the last interviews with KISS manager Bill Aucoin is part of the book. What did he remember of his time with Eric and how did he view KISSs 80s period?

GP: Yes, I conducted what very well could be the last interview that Bill Aucoin ever did as it was only a few months before his passing. He had some great recollections about the band (there are 2 chapters early in the book that serve as Kiss History Lessons, which tell an abbreviated version of the bands 70s history, to set the story of 80s Kiss). Something I learned about Bill was that he never saw a Kiss concert with them not wearing make-up, as he believed that they should have stuck with the make-up and costumes through it all. And although he was no longer Kiss manager when Creatures was released, he does go on record saying that it is a great Kiss album. I agree!

To read a few sample chapters (and find ordering info) from The Eric Carr Story visit

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