Stevie Rachelle recalls how Tuff’s fan mail exploded with idea from early KISS producer Kenny Kerner

Stevie Rachelle recalls how Tuff’s fan mail exploded with idea from early KISS producer Kenny Kerner

Tuff singer and Metal Sludge principal Stevie Rachelle continues to share his story via a series of articles on Metal Sludge called the Tuff Diaries and is now on his fourth instalment where he mentions an idea from KISS‘ early days producer Kenny Kerner that led to Tuff‘s incoming fan mail “exploding” in their early days.

The following is an excerpt from the Tuff Diaries #4:

“After Tuff had played a few shows, appeared in a few local papers and strutted our stuff in the most famous rock clubs in the world – we (Michael was) were getting business cards and phone numbers almost daily.

This included companies wanting to endorse us, magazines wanting to interview us and professional photographers wanting to shoot us.

Our look, our sound and style was EXACTLY what the labels, and magazines were looking for.

If we didn’t get approached in person and handed a business card (with a pitch), then the Tuff Muff Hotline served us well.

That is, beyond the girls calling us, or the other local bands pranking us.

One call that stands out was a voice mail on the Tuff Hotline from a known industry veteran named Kenny Kerner.

Kenny Kerner, a great man who was one of the first to believe in us.

I had no clue who he was, but in time I would learn he produced the earliest Kiss records.

He was also good friends with Kiss’ former, and current (at the time) Billy Idol manager Bill Aucoin.

Kenny was also the editor of Rock Scene Magazine.

Along with Zing, Rock Hunks, Metal Mania, Teen Machine and many others.

Kenny in short.. LOVED our band. And it was evident, he loved me the most.

Michael returned the call and set up a meeting for us to meet Kenny Kerner at his Sunset Strip offices.

I remember it well, Michael and I sitting in this high-rise building, and a heavy set 40-something (I am guessing was his age in the late 80’s) man wearing glasses talking to us.

Kenny was from Brooklyn, well spoken, smart and name dropped all the names he had worked with.

Those names ran the gamut, Kiss, Gladys KnightBadfinger and more.

I can vividly recall Kenny saying; “We are going to do a special issue, with all the hot guys in the magazine. Jon Bon Jovi in a bubble bath, Mark Slaughter with his shirt off, and you too… you will be in the same issue.”

Kenny is pointing at me and then explains he wants me to wear a speedo, maybe a beach towel and I will be lifting weights.

I recall thinking, “This sounds gay as hell.”

And also, “There is NO WAY Jon Bon Jovi is doing this.”

Fast forward, Jon did do it.

So did Mark Slaughter, Kip Winger and me as well.

There is a shot of Kip Winger in a red speedo, as that issue’s Hunk Of The Month. Google it if you dare.

And all these Tuff pics, just like Kenny had told us, ended up in countless issues of nationally published magazines.

I have a copy of one of the zines that has Brad Pitt, myself and some others in the “rising stars” section.

There were pin-ups, 2-3 page feature stroies and our P.O. Box would be listed for fans to write.

Our incoming fan mail EXPLODED.

Some of those infamous towel pics were part of these articles too.

Sure those are silly to look back on, but it’s been 3 decades since. And honestly, I have never been ashamed of it.

A little embarrassed, sure…but no regrets.

Those pics are me in all my glory at 21, oh well.

It’s like looking back at pics of yourself in 4th grade and seeing your Mom dressed you in Garanimals at a K-Mart photo shoot.

Truth is, those pics from all of us, are amazing and people drop them on social media all the time.

We left the meeting and in a few weeks’ time we were doing photo sessions with name photographers.

I got in touch with Kenny in 2013 and wrote him this message.  Kenny replied ASAP. We never did get lunch, and I regret that. In 2014 he passed away at 66. Kenny Kerner you are missed my friend, you helped us in so many ways – I thank you.

I think it’s safe to say, in some way Kenny Kerner discovered us, just like he did Kiss.

Kenny remained our friend and always gave us great advice.

He even invited me to be a guest speaker at UCLA where he was teaching.  I talked to kids about the music industry.

Kenny also put the band in Music Connection several times, where he was the editor for many years.

It was at Music Connection’s Hollywood offices where we first met Bill Aucoin early in our career.

There was some interest for him to manage us, but nothing ever came of it.

We had heard rumors that Kenny and Bill were both gay.

We heard the same about David Geffen and other notable industry types, but it didn’t bother us.

These were all good men (in our eyes), who were making history with bands they had worked with and discovered.

I also knew that I was the eye-candy here and everyone (in the band) joked about it.

The guys would say stuff like, “You might have to get fucked in the ass, for us to get a record deal at some point” and they’d all laugh.

Well that never happened, but some other sexually related business dealings did happen soon after.”