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Carnegie ready to Rock and Roll all night
Ace Wax-V
The Space Ace costume and the 1974 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul guitar worn and played by KISS founding member Ace Frehley are among the numerous Rock and Roll memorabilia on display at the Carnegie ROCKS! exhibit opening Sunday. - photo by Photo Contributed


The Carnegie Arts Center is opening an exhibit to the public Sunday the likes of which most people would only see by traveling to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Carnegie ROCKS! Exhibit is a showcase of Rock and Roll memorabilia that highlights the decades when Rock and Roll bands were pushing the boundaries of their predecessors. Perhaps no band did this with bigger results than KISS. Some of the iconic instruments and costumes played and donned by founding member Ace Frehley are spotlighted in the Carnegie exhibit.

“KISS was just so far off the charts of what we knew when they came on the scene,” said Turlock’s Matt Swanson, whose collection of memorabilia stocks the Carnegie exhibit. “They demanded attention.”

Swanson says he was highly influenced in his own guitar playing by Frehley, as were “a million other guitar players,” and it was Frehley’s 1974 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul guitar that started Swanson’s collection.

The Sunburst guitar is “the” guitar of KISS. It was played by Frehley in the late 70s and was used on every song of the “Love Gun” album. It became known as the “Budokan” guitar in 1977 when Frehley played it at the Budokan Hall in Japan in 1977. Frehley continued to play the guitar after leaving KISS and used it for the majority of the songs on his second solo album “Comet.”

“This is the guitar seen on every lunchbox, T-shirt, and poster of KISS from that time,” Swanson said.

Also among the one-of-kind items featured at the Carnegie exhibit, will be the “Space Ace” costume Frehley donned in numerous performances, including his last show with all the original members of KISS. The costume is being shown on a model of Frehley that includes the wax molds of Frehley’s hands.

Swanson’s collection at the Carnegie features more than 40 original electric and acoustic guitars that were strummed by some of Rock and Roll’s most iconic musicians. The collection spans the period from the 1930's to the present, with an emphasis on the 1960's and forward.

A Marshall stack used by Steve Vai on David Lee Roth's "Eat Em and Smile" tour will be on view along with an original 1959 Telefunken microphone used by Les Paul, a Monteleone guitar, and memorabilia such as a vintage sign proclaiming "The Iridium Proudly Presents Les Paul" from the Iridium Jazz Club in New York. Other items include the red strat used by Brad Gillis on the Ozzy Osbourne and Night Ranger tours and Cheap Trick’s drum kit used to record “I Want You to Want Me.”

This is the first time the collection has been exhibited and no additional venues are planned. The exhibit will run through Aug. 17.

Some of the musicians will be on hand Saturday night for the premiere VIP night launching the exhibit. Special guests include Frehley, Night Ranger, George Lynch of Dokken, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. The event will be emceed by Nikki Blakk from the San Francisco radio station The Bone.

The night will include a performance by Night Ranger in the Carnegie Loft. The Bay Area based band Night Ranger first tasted fame in the 1980s when their smash hits "Sister Christian,” “When You Close Your Eyes” and “(You Can Still) Rock in America” hit the airwaves. They have sold 17 million albums worldwide and are now celebrating their 30th anniversary of touring and recording together.