KISS Superfans Donate Decades-Long Collection For Preservation And Research

March 23, 2021

The University Of South Carolina Libraries will be home to a one-of-a-kind collection of memorabilia from the rock band KISS.

The collection is a gift from John Upshaw Downs, Jr., a Charleston businessman, and his wife, Margaret Norris Downs, who have a deep interest in music and art. The Downs offered the collection to the University Libraries earlier this year after they read about the Libraries' acquisition of the Gary Lee Watson comic book collection.

KISS was founded in 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. While they are known for their music and their stage performances, they are also known for their highly developed business and marketing plans. KISS is considered to be one of the most influential rock bands of the late 20th century and they are still performing.

The Downs' remarkable collection, which includes 26 guitars played by the band and handcrafted guitar cases, offers a backstage look at the legendary band whose hits include "Detroit Rock City", "I Was Made For Lovin' You", "Shout It Out Loud", "Tears Are Falling" and "Rock And Roll All Nite".

The collection is comprised of approximately 400 items, including:

* 26 guitars, originally owned and signed by members of the band
* Concert photographs by Len DeLessio
* Early black-and-white signed photographs
* Original artwork by Paul Stanley, KISS guitarist and a founding member of the band
* Concert memorabilia, including backstage passes

The Downs Family Kiss Collection will greatly enhance the University Libraries 20th and 21st century popular music holdings. This collection connects well with University Libraries' popular culture holdings, including 19th, 20th and 21st century music, film, television, comics and graphic novels and art. Students, faculty and researchers in music, visual arts, modern history, business history, and marketing will use the Downs Collection. This acquisition also stands to establish the University Libraries as a repository for contemporary music archives.

The collection is currently being processed and readied for an exhibit in summer 2021.

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