Although ’Perfect’ Candidate for Kiss, This Guitar Legend Declined the Offer, Here’s Why

Best-known for his band White Lion, Vito Bratta recalled getting the offer to join Kiss but ultimately refused to join due to the band’s very specific requests. Speaking to Guitar World in a recently published interview segment, Bratta remembered the early 1980s when Ace Frehley parted ways with Kiss and when a few other guitar legends were considered as well.

Somewhere around that time, Bratta also ended up missing the opportunity to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band due to, as he said, not knowing Ozzy’s solo material. As he said in the interview:

“I’ve had a few instances that I look back on and make me wonder. Ozzy was tough because I felt like that was my shot – they actually called me and wanted me to audition. And I had the upper hand… I think I woulda got it because I had the chops, the dark hair, and the sound they were looking for.”

White Lion - Vito Bratta - SOLO - Wait - Live At The Ritz - 1988

Sure, he knew Black Sabbath material, but that just wasn’t enough. Although, at that point, Bratta was not yet a big-shot guitar player, he did also get a call from Kiss:

“But that wasn’t the only opportunity I had – I have to tell you about the Kiss thing that happened after Ace Frehley left the band.”

Interestingly enough, the band he was playing in had another guy named Ace who actually looked like Kiss’ recently-booted guitar player Ace Frehley:

“My cover band had two guitar players. There was another guy named Ace and me. He had the Ace Frehley hair and did the whole pentatonic thing. He was nothing like me [laughs].”

Vito Bratta - Interview

“But he did go out to California to audition when Ace [Frehley] left Kiss. And they must have liked him because when he came back to New York, Paul [Stanley] and Gene [Simmons] showed up at the clubs we were playing to see him live.”

However, Gene and Paul, the true leaders of Kiss, changed their minds:

“I guess they liked the other guy. They came out to see him, right? So, I knew they were there, and I just did my thing, which included walking out and doing a half-an-hour guitar solo right in front of their faces.”

White Lion — Wait • Vito Bratta Only (Isolated Guitar)

“Long story short, I stole the show [laughs]. I get off stage, and Paul and Gene want to talk to me. They think I’d be ‘perfect for KISS,’ probably because I was doing all this modern stuff they’d been missing. I was doing the tapping, and all that, which they liked.”

Bratta obviously made an impression on Paul and Gene. So they gave him an offer:

“So, they said, ‘Hey, we like you. We think you’d be perfect for KISS. Would you consider playing a Les Paul?'”

White Lion - Vito Bratta - Nuno - Van Halen - Ain't Talking Bout Love - Live - L'Amour - 1991

This was the first bump on the potential road. After all, Bratta was a member of the younger generation, gravitating more towards modern guitar models. As he recalled:

“When they asked me about playing a Les Paul, I immediately knew I wasn’t into it. I just couldn’t picture it, you know? But I was maybe willing to go along with it because I had started with a Les Paul.”

A bit cocky of him to consider not joining such a huge band just because of his guitar preference, right? However, while that was being considered, and while he was loosening up a little, there came another request that he just couldn’t accept:

“And then, after asking me my name, they said, ‘Your name is too ethnic; would you ever consider changing it?’ And I just said, ‘Would you ever consider f***ing yourself?’ I was not going to change my name. I mean, seriously, ‘Gene Simmons’ isn’t ethnic. Come on.”

White Lion - When The Children Cry (Official Music Video)

In a way, it’s understandable — abandoning your name, even if it’s just for this rock star persona, is a red line some may not want to cross. And understandably so.

But as Bratta then added, this wasn’t really the end of it. Well, at least according to what he thought. Some years later, White Lion was enjoying their success and they went out on tour with Kiss. And that’s when, according to Bratta, Kiss bassist Gene Simmons kind of paid him back for what happened in the early 1980s:

“Years later, we went on tour with Kiss. And this time, I knew that Gene remembered the whole thing. I know that because while on tour with Kiss, we rolled in to play the Meadowlands, a hometown show. And when we got there, we were told, ‘You guys have the night off; we’re getting Ted Nugent to open.'”

Sure, it may sound like speculation. But Vito is convinced that Gene is that kind of guy:

“We were like, ‘Ted Nugent. Really?’ This wasn’t 1978; it was the heart of the MTV era, and this wasn’t a ‘Wango Tango’ crowd, so it made no sense. I always suspected Gene had something to do with it because he could do that, and I think he would do that.”

White Lion enjoyed some success in the 1980s. Apart from opening for Kiss, they also supported AC/DC in early 1988. The band, however, broke up in the early 1990s, which wasn’t unusual for glam metal bands. White Lion did come back together in the late 1990s but it was pretty much vocalist Mike Tramp with a whole new lineup. As for Bratta, he has been more or less under the radar since the early 1990s.

White Lion - Vito Bratta - Little Fighter - Live Nottingham UK - 1991

Photo: Nashville69 (Kiss Cracow 2019)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.