It seems like every professional golfer wants to play guitar and every professional musician wants to play golf.” Those are the words of the lead guitarist for the legendary rock band KISS, Tommy Thayer. He should know—he is a rocker and he knows a few of those professional golfers personally!
In the history of rock, there are only a few bands that can be considered iconic. And just a handful of those are still playing today. KISS is definitely part of that elite group. Coming up on their 40th year together, this legendary rock band is easily identified by their face paint and flamboyant stage outfits. Formed in New York City, the band is known for their elaborate live performances, which include fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drums and various pyrotechnics.
Thayer joined the band in 2002, donning the spaceman makeup for the first time and officially took over the coveted KISS lead guitar spot on February 28, 2003. And, according to Thayer, his music career has been more than a dream come true. Born in 1960 in Portland, Oregon, Tommy grew up in the suburbs of Beaverton. His influences were many during that time period—classic ‘60’s pop and early 70’s hard rock inspired him to pick up the electric guitar at age 13. He recalls watching the Partridge Family show on Friday nights and thinking it was cheesy but couldn’t help be inspired by David Cassidy with his cool haircut and electric guitar. “It just made me want to play.”
After graduating from high school, Thayer played in local garage bands and eventually formed his own, called Black ‘N Blue. In the early 80’s, Black ‘N Blue had immediate success and signed a contract with Geffen Records. In 1985, his band toured for two months as the opening act for KISS and Thayer soon befriended bassist, Gene Simmons. This
was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and working partnership.
Around the same time Thayer was learning various riffs on his electric guitar, his dad was taking him to play golf. Neither of them ever had a lesson, but they had fun. According to Thayer, he has gotten more serious about the game in the last 10 years and is trying to figure out his swing. “Anything you do, you need to be natural at it and not performing.” Thayer says. “It’s the same with guitar playing—I am just hearing the music and feeling it. And now with golf, I am learning the Zen of the golf swing. I imagine it probably works for most things in life.” Today, Thayer likes to combine his rock and roll career with golf. “I try to squeeze in a round at every tour stop.” But he doesn’t just play for fun. Five years ago, the President of Pacific University in Oregon contacted him to join the Board of Trustees. “I was honored to be asked and it has been an amazing experience.” He was asked to host the local golf tournament to help raise funds for the sports programs at the University. The Pacific University Legends Golf Classic, hosted by Tommy Thayer, boasts actors, musicians and sports figures as players. Having raised hundreds of thousand of dollars it is now one of the biggest celebrity events in the region. The tournament hostess well known golfers like John Daly and musicians like Darius Rucker and Clint Black. All the proceeds go to the various 21 sports programs at the college. Here is a video from last years event- https://vimeo.com/
Thayer was kind enough to chat with Arizona Golf Central-
What was your greatest moment on stage?
I remember a big tour with Aerosmith a few years ago. Joe Perry joined us with Paul Stanley’s boots to jam. We were at the Forum. I looked to my left and my right and saw Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Joe Perry and couldn’t help but think, “Boy, I sure did something right.”
What is your most treasured item?
Of course, my family and wife. But if I were to pick a material item, it would have to be my 1963 Epiphone Texan acoustic guitar. My parents gave it to me in 1978 as a high school graduation present. They got it at a used instrument shop, but it’s a collector’s piece now. And it has great sentimental value to me as well.
Is there a celebrity that you have been star struck by?
It would have to be Jimmy Page. He came backstage once and proved to be a pure gentleman. As far as I am concerned, he invented rock and roll guitar. I am also a huge Beatles fan and would love to meet Paul McCartney.
What’s the top song in your playlist right now?
I like so many things—blues, country, classic rock, classical. I listen to anything from Led Zepplin to Katy Perry to Bach.
What is the one thing that you want your fans to know that they might not know already?
I have lots of admiration for my dad, James. He is a retired Brigadier in the Army and a great man. In 1945, he was a Captain in his company and they liberated a death camp in Wels, Austria. He is a hero to me and to those people and their families.
Who is your favorite golfer?
Darren Clark. And it’s not just because he won recently. I have always been a fan of his. Although I have never met him, I like his personality. He seems like a pretty cool guy with his cigars and pints of Guinness. I have to say those European players have a little something extra going on.
Do you have a favorite course and where is it?
I am a member of Astoria Country Club in Oregon where I have a home. I also spend a lot of time in Southern California and enjoy Lake Sherwood, North Ranch, Sterling Hills, Tierra Rejada and Rustic Canyon. They are all public courses that are affordable and have great tracks.
It’s become plainly obvious to us here at Arizona Golf Central that Tommy is a true, upstanding type of guy. He’s a great rocker with a big heart for charity.
His dedication and admiration to his family is refreshing. And the interest that he took with us only proves he cares about his fan. Find out more about Tommy or the band, visit tommythayer. com or kissonline.com.