Vinnie Vincent (born Vincent John Cusano; August 6, 1952) is an American guitarist and songwriter. He is a former member in the band Kiss, as well as the leader of his own band, Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Vincent was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Theresa "Terri" (Farraro) and Alfonso Cusano, musicians. He picked up the guitar at an early age and was inspired by bluegrass and rock and roll. In 1980, Vincent moved to Los Angeles, California where he became a staff songwriter for the television series Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi. Many of the series songs were written on Vincent's acoustic guitar while sitting at the Cunninghams' kitchen table on the Happy Days set, during off-time from the show's rehearsal schedule. Vincent has said the times of working at the Paramount lot were genuinely "happy days". According to the site "Kiss Related Recordings", Vincent has played with the bands Hunter, Warrior, Hitchhikers, and Heat going as far back as 1970.
After being introduced to the band by songwriter Adam Mitchell, Vincent was brought in as the replacement for guitarist Ace Frehley. Vincent's personality meshed well with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, thus enabling him to play lead guitar on six of the nine tracks on the Creatures of the Night album as well as co-writing three. After a disappointing Creatures of the Night/Tenth Anniversary tour, that finished on a high at what ended up being the "last" makeup show (and Kiss' largest crowd attendance) at Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, Vincent returned to the studio with Kiss to record the Lick it Up album. His work was productive, yielding eight co-writes out of the ten songs on the album (a record for any member until Kulick's nine on Carnival of Souls and Stanley's ten on Monster).
Though contributing to Creatures of the Night as a session player before being named as Frehley's replacement, Vincent for all the public knew, was the official guitarist in Kiss and played all the lead guitar on Lick it Up. In what was a frequent occurrence for former guitarist Frehley, a "ghost player" was asked to play on the album, with Rick Derringer recording the solo on the opening track. Album producer Michael James Jackson explains, "There were just some things that Vinnie couldn't play. His sensibility was often too melodic for the band's style. Vinnie was always struggling to find his place within Kiss, both musically and personally. As I recall we brought Rick Derringer in to take a pass. Moments like this were difficult for Vinnie, but the attitude all of us maintained was that the quality of the record would always be a the priority rather than anybody's ego"!
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Though the band seemed to have renewed vigour on stage, all was not well. Vincent's refusal to sign the employment contract strained the relationship with Simmons/Stanley. Due partly to disputes over what his role in the band was and his pay would be (some reports indicated that Vincent had asked for, and was flatly denied, a percentage of the band's gross profits), and despite the exhortations of both Simmons and Stanley, all through his tenure with the band Vincent refused to sign any contract making his employment official. This ultimately led to Vincent leaving the band after the North American leg of the "Lick It Up" tour.
At a March show in Quebec City, as the band prepared to close out their set, Vincent broke into an impromptu solo, leaving the other band members standing onstage with nothing to do. After the "Lick It Up" tour ended in March 1984, Vincent was terminated from the band, and replaced by Mark St. John (birth name Mark Norton). Despite parting on bad terms, Vincent was later utilized by Kiss as a songwriter on the 1992 album Revenge, contributing to the songs "Unholy", "Heart Of Chrome" and "I Just Wanna". Vincent again fell out of favor with Simmons and Stanley, as they claimed that Vincent again began "making all kinds of crazy demands and pulling the same kind of crazy stuff all over again".
Vinnie Vincent Invasion:
Following his departure from Kiss in 1984, Vincent took a long vacation and traveled the world for a full year visiting places like Tahiti, Philippines, Mocambique, India and Europe, including a visit to the small town Mora in Dalarna, Sweden. Then he formed the band Vinnie Vincent Invasion with, among others, former Journey singer Robert Fleischman in the mid-1980s and released two studio albums. First, Vinnie Vincent Invasion in 1986 and All Systems Go in 1988. The band broke-up in 1989. After that, the band's singer Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum formed Slaughter.
In 1996, Vinnie Vincent released a solo EP from the studio sessions he did in 1990 (some say 1989-91), called Euphoria, once again with Robert Fleischman on vocals. Vinnie, as well as playing all the guitars, played bass and did the drum programming under the guise of "V. Meister". Andre LaBelle provided drum tracks to the CD but they were replaced by Vinnie's drum programming. LaBelle can be heard on various tracks on the bootleg Guitarmaggedon/Guitars from Hell CD that featured five more songs than the Euphoria EP. There were at least four more songs from that session but only one has fully seen the light of day and one partly heard on Vinnie's youtube channel selling his Guitarmaggedon guitars.
A tribute album entitled Kiss My Ankh: A Tribute To Vinnie Vincent was released by SplitScreen Entertainment on August 27, 2008. The album consists of new recordings of songs from Vincent's careers with Kiss and the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Featured artists include Steve Brown of Trixter, Troy Patrick Farrell of White Lion, T.J. Racer of Nitro, Mike Weeks of Robert Fleischman's band, Sheldon Tarsha of Adler's Appetite, Chris Caffery of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Ryan Roxie from the Alice Cooper band and rock and roll comic C.C. Banana, who performs a parody of the Kiss song "Unholy" (rewritten as a roast of Danger Danger vocalist Ted Poley).