Gary Corbett, KISS Keyboardist, needs our help (and the funny story of how I met him and joined his dream band).
Words: Chris Dale
Gary Corbett was the offstage keyboard player for KISS during the Crazy Nights and Hot in the Shade era. He also played onstage on Paul Stanley’s 1989 solo tour.
He is one of those immensely talented musicians who can turn their hand to anything. As such, he’s played for numerous artists over the years, such as Cyndi Lauper, Ronnie Wood, Whitney Houston, Cinderella, Lou Gramm, Molly Hatchett, Ziggy Marley and Joe Lynn Turner.
He is also a super nice guy and very patient with obsessive KISS fans, as you will hear in a minute.
Gary’s recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and is struggling to pay for his treatment. Anything you can give back to this man who gave us so much music, would be greatly appreciated by him and his family.
I met Gary in Bulgaria, actually. I was working for Mr Big as Billy Sheehan’s bass tech, and Gary was playing for onstage Cinderella, who were also on the bill. After I’d packed down Mr Big’s show, me and Eric Martin went to watch Cinderella from the side of the stage.
Cinderella’s guitar tech was busy tuning guitars next to us, when I noticed their keyboard player gesturing on stage that he was thirsty. I pointed that out to the guitar tech, who dutifully ran a beer out to him. I hadn’t actually recognised the keyboard player at that point until Eric said to me “You know who that is right? That’s Gary Corbett!”
Eric and Gary had worked together on projects before.
The penny dropped, “Oh wow, he was in KISS!” So, when Cinderella had a small break in the set for an acoustic moment, Gary came to the side stage and thanked me for spotting his frantic signals earlier.
“No problem,” I said, “You were in KISS!”
“No,” he corrected “, I played offstage keyboards for them. I wasn’t a member of the band.”
“Yeah, that’s right, you were in KISS. I heard you at Donington. You were definitely in KISS.”
He laughed it off and went back on to play some more Cinderella. I have to say they were excellent.
A bit later everyone went back to the hotel, with the plan for a quick shower and see you all at the bar in 15 minutes. I skipped the shower idea and went straight to the bar. Guess who else had made the same wise choice?
Gary was sat by himself with a beer as I came in. I grabbed one too and asked if I could join him.
“Yeah, sure”, he’s a friendly guy. I played the small talk game for a few minutes and got the usual, “Eric Carr was such a lovely guy”, “Bruce Kulick’s so sweet”, etc. One cool bonus he told me about being an offstage player was that he could order pizza mid-show if he fancied, which the other guys couldn’t really do!
Then I got down to business. The business of being an obsessive KISS fan. “If you were in the band, in make-up, what would your character have been?”
Again, he laughed and told me emphatically, “I wasn’t IN the band. I wasn’t a member. I just played offstage keys, and besides, they weren’t in make-up. I honestly never gave it a minute’s thought”.
“That’s OK. I’m gonna give you a minute’s thought. I’m gonna go to the bar and get us a couple more beers. You sit and think about your make up character”.
I gave him a few minutes, then came back, but he started into the same, “I wasn’t actually in KISS…”
Just then, Eric Martin came down to the bar and joined us, effectively rescuing Gary from further interrogation. Eric apologised to Gary straight away, “I’m sorry about my friend here. He’s a bit of a KISS fan. Is he bothering you?”
Gary said I was OK, so we all three stayed in for a few beers and more comfortable chats on general topics.
At one point, Eric went to use the restroom. Gary turned to me and said, “Man, that guy’s such a great singer. You know, if I had my own dream band, I’d have him singing. And Eric Singer on drums…”
I saw my opening here, “Can I play bass?”
“I play bass. Can I play bass in your band?”
“Dude, it’s a fantasy band. It’s not real. It’s not gonna happen…”
“Yeah, I know. I just wanna be the bass player in Gary Corbett’s Fantasy Band. It’s a great name by the way.”
“Err… yeah OK…”, he laughed.
So that’s how I joined Gary Corbett’s imaginary band. I have to say, I was surprised he later accepted my FB friend request and even more so when he kept in touch, and we’d have little chats. He really went out of his way to take time with me, which was so appreciated.
That’s why when I heard he was in trouble, I wanted to take the time to let you know that he needs us all right now if you can help.
KISS – Rock and Roll All Nite, Schweinfurt Monsters Of Rock 1988. The cameraman was clearly not told that you’re not supposed to film offstage musicians!
Paul Stanley- Tonight You Belong to Me, New Haven 1989.
Paul Stanley: “Are those for me or the keyboard player?”