Home » Unveiling Gene Simmons’ Vision: Jay Jay French Reflects on Transforming the Early Image of KISS

Unveiling Gene Simmons’ Vision: Jay Jay French Reflects on Transforming the Early Image of KISS

In a recent conversation with VRP Rocks, Jay Jay French revisited a memorable encounter with Gene Simmons during the early days of the band that would later become KISS. French, who had auditioned for a group known as Wicked Lester at the time, shared the following recollection: “After a performance, we talked a little bit, and he said, ‘My name is Gene Klein, but I’m changing my name to Gene Simmons.’ I asked, ‘Oh, okay. Like the actress Jean Simmons?’ He responded, ‘No, like the guitar player for Savoy Brown, Kim Simmonds.'”

French went on to explain Simmons’ rationale behind the name change: “I asked, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because we’re very much into British rock like Slade.’ He started talking about Slade, which was new to me at the time since I was still into Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, or whatever. Then he introduced me to Stanley, who he referred to as Paul Stanley, saying, ‘He’s changing his name to Paul Stanley.’

Identity Shift: Gene Simmons’ Request for a Name Change and the Birth of KISS

The conversation then took an unexpected turn as the spotlight shifted to Jay Jay French’s name. Hailing from a Jewish heritage, the former Twisted Sister guitarist originally bore the name John French Segall. Recounting his exchange with Gene Simmons, also of Jewish descent, French shared:

“He asked, ‘What’s your name?’ I replied, ‘John Segall.’ And he remarked, ‘That’s too Jewish. You should change your name.’ It was one of the first things he ever said to me. He added, ‘You look too Jewish with your glasses on.’ It struck me as odd; I had never really contemplated my Jewish identity before.”

Reflecting on Simmons’ suggestion, French continued:

“No one, especially a fellow Jew, had ever commented on my background one way or the other, let alone calling another Jew ‘too Jewish.’ It wasn’t something that had ever come up for me. I thought, ‘Huh, interesting. Okay.’ But I grasped it—they were aiming for a British image, aligning themselves with the likes of Slade, and undergoing a transformation in their overall appearance.”

Identity Evolution: Jay Jay French’s Decision to Transform His Name

Despite not securing a spot in Wicked Lester, which would later transform into KISS, Jay Jay French took a different musical path, finding his place in Twisted Sister. Throughout his journey, he underwent a name transformation, initially adopting Johnny Heartbreaker before settling on Jay Jay French.

In a revealing interview with the Jewish Telegraph, French disclosed that he wasn’t the only one to undergo a name change. Even his bandmates, including Dee Snider (originally Daniel Snider), saw a shift in nomenclature. These adjustments, along with other tweaks, marked the beginning of Twisted Sister’s ascent to fame, a journey French discussed in an interview with Stereophile: “We immediately got jobs—immediately. That wasn’t a problem. The band was a good band.” For more insights into Jay Jay French’s memories and encounters, check out the full video below.

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