Twisted Sister
1973
United States
Music group
The Twisted Sister biography as told by
Dee Snider & Jay Jay French (via Disco Sucks!):

DEE: Straight to the point, we´d like to make it clear that this is the first complete unadulterated biography of Twisted Sister. In the past, we´ve never told the whole story to the press because we always felt that the history of the group, before Jay, Eddie and I got together, didn´t really concern the average person on the street. But for YOU, the dedicated fan who has paid good money to get some real juicy inside stuff, we feel that we should provide the full facts. So, take it away Mr. French...

JAY JAY: Okay - thanks Dee - let´s go right back to February 1973, where there was a band in New jersey called SILVERSTAR, whose line-up comprised four gentlemen...

DEE: We use the term loosely!

JAY JAY: ...named MEL STARR (a.k.a. Mel Andersson), MICHAEL VALENTINE (a.k.a. Michael O´neill), BILLY DIAMOND (a.k.a. Billy Stiger) and KENNETH HARRISON-NEILL.



DEE: I´d just like to interject at this point and say that what you are about to read proves beyond all doubt that TWISTED SISTER was never a rip-off of KISS, because the band´s roots lie around the same time like KISS and THE NEW YORK DOLLS were forming.

JAY JAY: At that point, I was looking to form agroup that was into BOWIE and ALICE COOPER, and in a fact there were a lot of bands in the States who emereged during that resurgence of metal and glam rock. An agent that I knew in New Jersey got me together with the four guys in SILVERSTAR and we started working together on St.Valentine´s Day, 1973. I a way, that was the start of TWISTED SISTER, but for a while we went out as SILVERSTAR, which was actually the drummer´s idea. He thought it was an absolutely amazing name. I told him it sucked and that immediately created a bad relationship between the two of us, which lasted until he left! We started using the name TWISTED SISTER sometime in March 1973 and Dee seems to enjoy telling his version of how that came about.

DEE: I´ve always told the press that a drunken friend of ours named MICHAEL O´NEILL thought of the name, and that´s not a total lie! He had a drinking problem and he was a friend, but the minor detail I´ve tended to leave out was that he happened to be the lead singer of the band at the time!



JAY JAY: Whenever we had a rehearsal, Michael would go out and get wrecked, and one night he called up from a pay-phone boot in a bar and said "You´re not gonna believe it, but I´ve come up with this incredible name...TWISTED SISTER". I immediately thought it was great, but the drummer thought it sucked and so that started another fight between him and Michael. Eventually, we decided to go ahead with the new name and the first gig we played as TWISTED SISTER was at a place called the Satellite lounge, which was next to a army base with 5000 G.I´.s

Meanwhile there was in Long Island somewhere...

DEE: Yeah, I was graduating from high school...meantime, "Animal" was graduating in dropping out of high school! Eddie, who had actually been in a band with Jay when they were at school together, was playing bars in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan) and A.J. was still in diapers! No, actually A.J. was touring Europe as "Little Tony Pero". He was a 10-year old protege plying with a big band.

JAY JAY: TWISTED SISTER , as it was then, continued to play the club curcuit until December 1974, at which point Michael and Billy left the band.

DEE: Basically, the group was plagued with alcoholism and drug abuse. It was a classic case of drugs and booze destroying the band.

JAY JAY: It was a situation where we werejust partying to the max and never getting anything done because everyone was totally stoned and wrecked all the time. I kept the group together with the drummer Mel and the bassist Kenny, and we got hold of a singer called RICK PRINCE (a.k.a. Frank Karuba) and a guitarist named KEITH ANGEL (a.k.a. Keith Angelino). That line-up eventually fell apart after three months because Prince wasn´t bothering to show up at the gigs! I had to handle lead vocals for a while (yes folks, Jay Jay sang lead for Twisted Sister) but that didn´t work out because my vocal capabilities lie somewhere between LOU REED and a bullfrog!

DEE: Just to fill you in on what the rest of us were up to at the time, Eddie was still friendly with Jay and was playing the New York City scene in a band called SPX

JAY JAY: They had a record deal on some local label...

DEE: ...but it never really happened for them. "Animal" was in THE DICTATORS, but none of us really knew him. Funnily enough though, I met him for the first time in 1975, when I was working in a department store. Like "Animal", who was working for an autoparts place at that time, my hair was dark and frizzy and he saw me one day when he drove past. I was loading some mattresses on to a truck and as soon as he saw my hair he pulled into the parking lot and started doing 360 degree turns all over the place in his company car!

JAY JAY: That´s the mating call of frizzy-haired people!

DEE: "Animal and I would see each other around Long Island, but we never got to know each other properly. Meanwhile, A.J. was still in Europe as "Little Tony Pero" . By then, I started making a bit of a name for myself on the same club scene that TWISTED SISTER were playing and I figured that they could do with a singer. So I went down to see them one night and got a message through to Jay that I wanted an audition. I claimed that I could sing real well and that I could defenitely be an asset to the group. But Jay never auditioned me. Being the pragmatic person that he is, he decided that the band was based around his vocals and that he wasn´t interested in changing things. So I went away all dejected, but then five minutes later he came over and said "Give me your phone number just in case".

JAY JAY: That first meeting was in August`75, and three weeks afterwards Mel and Keith dropped the bombshell, when they said they were leaving TWISTED SISTER. In fact, not only did they split, but they also ripped the truck off! After some legal wrangle we got the gear back, but the band consisted of just myself and Kenny. We soon got pretty dejected, decided that things weren´t going to work and for a couple of months we went off and got straight jobs.

DEE: That was basically the end of TWISTED SISTER in it´s old form.

JAY JAY: Kenny went to work in a department store, while I became a waiter at a big catering hall in New York City, which was run by a relative of mine. I had to do weddings, banquets and all those sort of things, wearing a very short-haired wig and sunglasses. It got very frustrating though because occasionally I´d be doing a party and people would be saying "Didn´t I see this guy play in a club?". I`d have to disappear quickly, because i looked like a real idiot.

DEE: Around this time (September/October 1975) I left the band I was in which was called PEACOCK and was really lame. I joined them simply because I wanted to play and make some money, but things never worked out. Then I tried to form a band called HEATHEN.

JAY JAY: By October 1975, Kenny and I had come to the conclusion that we could´nt stand straight jobs, so we deciced to get TWISTED SISTER back together again. We put an ad in a paper and got hold of a drummer named KEVIN JOHN GRACE, at which point I decided to call up Eddie. I figured it was time to rescue him from the upper westside, so i got him to come along for a blow on a freezing cold day. He refused to bring his amplifier and gave me a whole lot of hassles, but we had a rehearsal and then started playing again on October 31st, 1975



DEE: He called me up to tell me he was forming this amazing band and it was a really legendary phone conversation - two massive egos clashing over 20 miles of telephone cable! I told him that I was putting HEATHEN together, but he asked me if I wanted to come for an audition with them. They were rehearsing in New Jersey, about 60 miles from where I lived, and since I didn´t have a car, that was out. I wasn´t really interested to be honest because I felt I was putting a fantastic group together myself. Also i figured that Jay wasn´t totally interested in me because he felt that Eddie could probably handle the singing.

JAY JAY: In fact I was only fulfilling an obligation to my agent in phoning up Dee! So we started playing as a four piece again and carried on for about three months during an ice-cold winter. Eventually though, we realised that we were having severe difficulties.

DEE: Meanwhile, HEATHEN had fallen apart and out of desperation I ended up joining an outfit called THIS. They wouldn´t tell me the name until they figured I was really permanent because they thought it was an incredible name and were afraid I might steal it! Just as I was about to quit, they they told me that the name was...THIS! I said "This what?" and they replied "THIS is it - can´t you see? THIS is incredible! THIS is amazing! THIS is great!". I turned around and said "No way" and left. had no group and my ego was deflated. Jay had a long cold winter...

JAY JAY: I was singing most of the lead and doing loads of audience participation numbers because my vocals weren´t great. I´d be begging people to join in every night! I´d walk along bars with a 150ft mic. cable just to get other people singing!

DEE: He was desperate! He wasn´t that bad though and there were certain things he could sing. I was very monotone, which got a bit boring after a while, but it was relatively effective.

JAY JAY: It served it´s purpose but was something that had to be eliminated like cancer! Finally, in February 1976, I decided the best thing to do was to give Dee a buzz.

DEE: Another classic conversation between two greatly deflated egos! "What are you doing DEE?" - "Nothing Jay" - "Want to audition?" - "Yeah please!!!" - "Great, I´m glad to have you". And that was it.

JAY JAY: We picked up Dee and took him to Hunter Mountain, a ski resort where we were playing that weekend.

DEE: As far as I´m concerned, that´s when TWISTED SISTER really started. The first time we played together was magical - it was electric!

JAY JAY: Yeah, it was a tremendous gig. There were only about 13 people in this ski resort and most of them were throwing up because of alcohol poisoning, but we ha a great time. Dee worked out perfectly, but by then we realised that the drummer Kevin couldn´t last.

DEE: He was lame - a feeb!

JAY JAY: We used to play four sets a night in those days and as the evening progressed he used to get more and more tired and would continually taping up his hands.

DEE: So we got rid of him!

JAY JAY: Yeah, I knew this guy TONY PETRI and he joined us at the end of March 1976. That format actually lasted for a couple of years.



DEE: Meanwhile, Mark was in THE DICTATORS and A.J. was still "Little Tony Pero"!

JAY JAY: In the summer of 1978, Mark actually left THE DICTATORS and by then he´d become very good friends with TWISTED SISTER. He lived quite close to a club called Speaks, where we were the house band.

DEE: Whenever he wasn´t touring with THE DICTATORS, he used to come and watch us. He just loved Twisted.

JAY JAY: He was particularly big fan of our bassist Kenny and when we had an opening slot in our road crew, Mark said "I´d love to do that". We gave him the job and he was great. He was certainly no primadonna and he´d drive the truck, load the gear and was a real worker . Twisted finally headlined its first major concert on Halloweeen 1978 at the Calderone concert hall, in Hempstead, NY.

DEE: The place held 2500 people and it was a complete sell-out.

JAY JAY: The next day though, Kenny called up and told me he was leaving the band. When I asked him why, he said he´d become a "Born again Christian" and really wanted to go to church and lead a Christian life... now you see what Twisted does to people! Some bands turn people on to the devil - we make them "born again Christians". Mark was still the guitar roadie and since he knew every song we played, he was the obvious replacement.

DEE: We´d always loved his bass playing and I kinda secretly hoped that Kenny would eventually leave.

JAY JAY: So kenny played his last gig on December 28th 1978, and then Mark took over the following night. Just to remind you, the lie-up was Dee, Eddie, Mark, Tony Petri and myself. This lasted for two years and then in december 1980 we got hold of THE DICTATORS old drummer RITCHIE TEETER. Ritchie was only a temporary member, since he had his own studio thing going, but he helped us out for about five months. Then in April`81, JOEY BRIGHTON took over on the drums and ended up sticking with us for about a year. He left when A.J. finally emerged out of lounge bands, Californian bands, etc...



DEE: He´d done almost everything from disco to hard rock just to stay alive! A.J. is a heavy metal drummer at heart, but he can play more or less anything. Before he hooked up with us, He´d been looking and looking for the right band. Funnily enogh, he was really into tarot cards and one reader had told him "You will join a band with a singer who has blonde hair and become famous with them". He really believed in this stuff, so when we called him up that was a story in itself. The way we got to know about him was that he´d managed to get a tape to our road manager through a friend of his. The tape found it´s way into my hands and I ended up listening to it at the dentist´s one day! (If you´re going to be in agony, you might as well listen to music!) Anyway, I thought the drumming was great and so I told his friend to get him to come for an audition.

JAY JAY: A.J. joined TWISTED SISTER on April´s Fools Day, 1982, and within a month the band had signed a deal with Secret records in Britain. Mind you, the negotiations had been going on for about four months.

DEE: The whole Secret thing came about after a couple of guys from the Sounds/Kerrang! organization (Ross Halfin and Pete Makowski) came to see us play one night. We´d been trying to get a deal in the States for a long time, but we´d been turned down at least four times by every company. When Ross and Pete saw us, they flipped out and couldn´t understand why we weren´t signed. They reckoned we should come to Britain and they went back spreading the word to people like Gary Bushell and Dante Bonutto, who started writing about the band. That stirred enough interest to allow our management to go over and talk to a few small companies.

JAY JAY: Secret expressed interest in the group and th president of the label agreed to come over and see us in December`81. We had a gig in Poughkeepsie on December 27th, but we never thought he would show up and even if he did it would be a bad gig. As it turned out, he came to the concert, it was a sell-out and everything went great. We weren´t sure if he made it and we walked off the stage thinking that if he was watching then he´d have liked it. But we figured things had gone so well that he probably didn´t get there. A few minutes later , he walked into the dressing room and said "You guys are great - we`re signing you" There was a silence and nobody said a word. He was puzzled, walked out of the room and said to our manager "What´s wrong? They don´t seem very happy". Our manager told him not to worry, but to just send the contract. After he left, we were convinced that he ´d never make it back to Britain alive and that his plane would be piloted by a 16-year old alcoholic and the passengers would include members of every terrorist organization you can think of! But he actually made it back and called us up. Then, a blizzard hit England and put his business meetings back, so we didn´t get the contracts until the middle of April. I went and picked them up and the whole band met on a thoroughfare in Queens. We put the contracts on the dashboard of the car, pulled out our pens and signed, thinking "This is it!" Subsequently, we made arrangements to record our first album and eventually came to Britain in June.

DEE: the LP was produced by Pete Way (UFO/Waysted) in an English barn... and it sounded like it too! It wasn´t Pete´s fault, because he did the best he could. It was very low budget and unfortunately, the label didn´t have the finance to do a band like TWISTED SISTER justice. Even so, we sold a fair amount of albums and generated quite a bit of interest in Great Britain.

JAY JAY: We stayed there until the beginning of August on that first visit and then came back at the end of the month to play the Reading Festival. The LP was released in mid-September and we were supposed to follow it up with atour with DIAMOND HEAD, but that never happened. We soon found out that Secret was in a lot of trouble and after we started our own investigation into what was going wrong we realised that the label was folding.

DEE: Our manager told us that it was important that we go over to Britain as soon as possible in order to keep the interest going, so we ended up borrowing about 22 000 Dollars from friends and relatives to go over for three Marquee shows and an appearence on the TV show "The Tube".

JAY JAY: We´d made up our minds that if it didn´t work, then we ´d come back and sell the P.A. we had and that everything would be over. Even though we would continue to work in the clubs, it´s a matter of how much rejection you can take. But things turned out unbelievably well. When we did The Tube, Phil Carson (the UK head of Atlantic records) was there with Mick Jones from FOREIGNER. He´d originally been told about the band by Jason Flom from the New York office, but thought we were still tied up with Secret. When he found out that we weren´t, he agreed to come over and see us at The Marquee.

DEE: As soon as Phil saw us, he flipped. He signed AC/DC and he told us that we were the most intense thing he´d seen since then.

JAY JAY: On the night he saw us we got about four other offers from record companies, but in the end we decided to go with Atlantic.

DEE: And the rest, as they say, is absolutely, positively history...

Twisted Sister line-ups:

February 14, 1973 - December 1974:
Michael "Valentine" O'Neill: Vocals
Billy "Diamond" Stiger: Guitar
Mel "Starr" Anderson: Drums
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Jay Jay French: Guitar

January 1975 - March 1975:
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Frank "Rick Prince" Karuba: Vocals
Keith "Angel" Angelino: Guitar
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Mel "Starr" Anderson: Drums

April 1975 - August 1975:
Mel "Starr" Anderson: Drums
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Keith "Angel" Angelino: Guitar
Jay Jay French: Guitar & Vocals

October 31, 1975 - February 1976:
Kevin John Grace: Drums
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar
Jay Jay French: Guitar & Vocals

February 1976 - March 31, 1976:
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Kevin John Grace: Drums
Dee Snider: Vocals

April 1, 1976 - December 28, 1978:
Tony Petri: Drums
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Dee Snider: Vocals
Kenneth Harrison-Neill: Bass
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar

December 29, 1978 - December 12, 1980:
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar
Dee Snider: Vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass
Tony Petri: Drums

December 12, 1980 - April 1981:
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar
Dee Snider: Vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass
Ritchie Teeter: Drums

April 1981 - March 27, 1982:
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Dee Snider: Vocals
Joey Brighton: Drums
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar

April 1, 1982 - September 1986:
A.J. Pero: Drums
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Dee Snider: Vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar

March 1987 - October 10, 1987:
Joey "Seven" Franco: Drums
Jay Jay French: Guitar
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass
Dee Snider: Vocals
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitar


1999 - 2000:
Dee Snider: Vocals
A.J. Pero: Drums
Derek Tailer: Bass
Tony Palimucci: Lead Guitar
Dan MacCafferty: Rhythm Guitar

2001 - :
Dee Snider: Vocals
A.J. Pero: Drums
Tony Palimucci: Lead Guitar
Dan MacCafferty: Rhythm Guitar
Freddy Villano: Bass
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