Ken Kelly, Kiss Album Cover Artist, Reportedly Dead at 76

Ken Kelly, the artist behind the classic Kiss album covers for destroyer and love gunis reported to have passed away at the age of 76.

Multiple sources confirmed Kelly’s passing, including his friend Danny Stanton, president and founder of Coallier Entertainment.

Born in Connecticut in 1946, Kelly began his career in the early 1970s, working on comic books and horror magazines for Warren Publishing. It was Kiss drummer Peter Criss who put the artist on the band’s radar.

“I always thought it was Gene Simmons, but Criss’s wife said it was him reading” Scary and Scary while Gene and Paul Stanley were reading Marvel comics,” Kelly noted… Print magazine in 2018. “So I’d say Peter Criss was fundamentally responsible for me becoming the cover man.”

Kiss enlisted Kelly to create the artwork for their 1976 album destroyer† He was given a basic concept and was asked to create an image in 30 days. Fortunately, his experience in the magazine industry had prepared him for tight deadlines.

“Warren released magazines every few weeks, so the turnaround [for covers] had to be really fast,” he explained. “You had to come up with a concept, paint it, deliver it and then you were on to the next one. So when Kiss came along, I was ready.”

Despite his willingness, Kelly’s first painting was rejected by the band’s label. “They thought it was too violent,” he recalls. “It was 1975, and they didn’t want to launch such a big project with such a negative turnaround. I thought my career was over. That was one of the hardest blows I’ve ever taken.”

Rather than end his career, Kelly was given the opportunity to rework his painting. The result would be destroyerthe now legendary work of art.

The popularity of that album cover led many more rockers to turn to Kelly’s services. Rainbow had Kelly create the artwork for 1976 Rising† Kiss brought the artist back to paint the cover for 1977 love gun† Manowar used Kelly for six albums between 1987 and 2007; Coheed and Cambria had an original piece by Kelly on their 2007 LP No world for tomorrow† and Kelly teamed up again with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley for his 2014 solo album Space Invader

Outside of rock, Kelly remained steady for decades, creating his signature fantasy-inspired images for everything from book covers to toy packaging.

“What I want to do is paint things that people like to look at,” the artist explained to The Knoxville Mercury in 2017. “Any subject – fantasy, non-fantasy, toys, business products, whatever it is, I’m going to try and make it look really good.”

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