Airdate – Jan 02, 2022
At the age of 8, Chaim Witz immigrated to the United States from Israel with his mother. At the age of 9, he changed his name to Gene Klein, adopting his mother’s maiden name. Several years later he chose the stage name of Gene Simmons and became a legend in the band Kiss.
His stage name was a tribute to rockabilly singer Jumpin’ Gene Simmons.
Mississippi-born Jumpin’ Gene Simmons began his recording career with Sun Records in 1958 a couple of years after performing as an opening act for Elvis Presley. He is most noted for his 1964 novelty hit, “Haunted House,” which went to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. It has been a Halloween favorite ever since.
What is not commonly known is the fact that “Haunted House” was originally recorded back in 1958 by a West Coast singer and guitarist who was admired for his ability to perform in a number of music genres, including R&B, gospel, and Rock & Roll.
Classified as a West Coast bluesman, this artist also came from Mississippi but spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. His distinctive voice and guitar work can be heard on several 1950 recordings, which were regionally successful.
From 1968 – 1983 he worked as an auto mechanic at a local garage to make ends meet.
With his ability to switch styles, he performed in the late-1950s Rock & Roll package tours, on the same bill as Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon. It is speculated that his touring was a factor in losing his black audience, resulting in him being overlooked in the 1960s blues revival.
He never made it onto the Billboard charts despite recording for several independent labels. On the Checker label, he recorded a regional hit in a style similar to Elvis Presley.
The original artist on “Haunted House” in 1958, here’s the late Johnny Fuller with a tribute tune to Rock & Roll that has the perfect New Year’s Eve title, “All Night Long,” this week’s Tom Locke Moment In Time.
YouTube video of this song: