Mark St. John: What Happened To KISS’ Lesser-Known Guitarist

KISS has undergone numerous lineup changes since the band’s formation in 1973, with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons remaining the only consistent members. While the best-known lineup of KISS consisted of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, the band had several other members whose careers were brief.

When Criss left in 1980, Eric Carr joined as his replacement, and when Carr passed away in 1991 from heart cancer, Eric Singer took his place. Two years after Criss’ departure, Ace Frehley also decided to leave the band. Vinnie Vincent officially replaced Frehley in December 1982, and a year later, KISS decided it was time for a change and entered their unmasked era.

On September 18, 1983, they made their first appearance without makeup and released the album titled ‘Lick It Up.’ Due to the issues between him, Stanley, and Simmons, Vincent was fired after the ‘Lick It Up’ promotion tour. To replace him, Mark St. John joined the band. However, St. John’s career with KISS lasted only eight months.

Mark St. John’s Music Career And Tragic Lifestory

Mark St. John was a respected teacher and a guitarist for the Southern California cover band Front Page before joining KISS. When he became a KISS member, he contributed to the band’s second unmasked-era album ‘Animalize.’ After its release on September 13, 1984, the album ended up being one of the band’s most successful studio albums, except for the ones made by the original KISS lineup. Moreover, his only music video appearance with KISS is in the video for ‘Heaven’s On Fire.’

During the recordings of ‘Animalize,’ St. John had issues with his bandmates. Paul Stanley argued that the guitarist struggled to play the same solo twice, so he had to dub certain parts of St. John’s solos. Sadly, the guitarist started to develop reactive arthritis, and he couldn’t play with the band as his hands and arms were swollen. So, Mark ended up playing only two shows with the band during the ‘Animalize’ tour. In the end, Bruce Kulick replaced him on December 8, 1984.

After leaving KISS, Mark St. John teamed up with David Donato, Barry Brandt, Brian James Fox, and his brother Michael Norton and formed the White Tiger. Together, they recorded their self-titled debut and a second album titled ‘Raw.’ St. John continued teaming up with several artists on music projects, such as playing the lead guitar for Ken Tamplin’s ‘Livin’ For My Lord,’ and working with David Hasselhoff and Jeff Scott Soto. In 1990, the guitarist also made a demo with Peter Criss.

Mark and Peter worked together in White Tiger, but the demo was a commercial failure. This led to friction between the two as St. John had to get on with making a living. Criss then left in 1991 and founded his solo project ‘Criss.’ After that, Mark formed the short-lived band, the Mark St. John Project, and released a limited edition EP in 1991. Following his appearance at a KISS expo in 1991 and the release of an all-instrumental CD in 2003 titled ‘Magic Bullet Theory,’ the guitarist didn’t make any further public appearances.

On September 14, 2006, St. John was charged with possession of unspecified drug paraphernalia, attempted destruction of evidence, and resisting arrest. He ended up staying at Theo Lacy Jail in Orange County, California, for several days. While staying at F-West Barracks, around 20 inmates brutally beat Mark and stabbed him with pencils for an accusation of stealing. Several months after leaving the jail, St. John started suffering from severe body aches. He refused to see a doctor as he had no medical insurance.

As Mark didn’t receive any medical attention, his health deteriorated. On April 5, 2007, the guitarist died of a brain hemorrhage from an accidental overdose. His girlfriend argued the brutal beating caused Mark’s untimely death, while his friends believed he fell into the pit of depression and addiction. After his death, Mark St. John remained a lesser-known member of KISS who didn’t even appear on any album front cover.