Vincent John Cusano (born August 6, 1952, in Bridgeport, Connecticut), better known as Vinnie Vincent, is a guitarist and songwriter most famous for his brief membership in the band KISS. Vincent played a few guitar solos on the album Creatures of the Night and subsequently toured with KISS in "Ankh Warrior" makeup created by Paul Stanley, KISS's lead singer and rhythm guitarist. After that, he remained with KISS for one additional album, Lick It Up recorded in 1983, before being fired from the band. He later performed as a solo artist and with his own band, Vinnie Vincent Invasion.
Cusano originally wanted to use his birth name in the band but this was vetoed by Gene Simmons on the grounds that it sounded "too ethnic" being that Vinnie is Italian. Cusano then suggested the name "Mick Fury" but this was also disallowed. Simmons later suggested the name change to Vinnie Vincent. Vincent started actively pushing to join KISS as a full member. Despite misgivings Simmons and Paul Stanley harbored about his personality, Vincent was taken into the band and Stanley designed an "Ankh Warrior" persona and make-up for Vincent.
From 1982-1983, the new line-up of KISS became Simmons (the Demon), Stanley (the Starchild), Eric Carr (the Fox), and Vincent (the Ankh Warrior). This incarnation of KISS was to be the last incarnation of the original make-up era. At the end of the Creatures Of The Night tour, the band removed their make-up.
Aside from songwriting credits under his birth name, Vincent's involvement with the recording of Creatures Of The Night was not widely-publicized for several years. Simmons and Stanley were not sure they wanted to let fans know that Ace Frehley had left the band. For this reason, Frehley still appeared on the cover of the original album artwork as well as in the music video for "I Love It Loud." When the album was re-mixed and re-released in 1985 with a non-makeup cover and a slightly different song order, to reflect the band's roster change and abandonment of their make-up and costuming, Vincent was again absent from the album cover as then-current lead guitarist, Bruce Kulick, appeared there instead. The liner notes accompanying the re-mixed LP, however, have credited both Ace Frehley and Vinnie Vincent with lead guitar performances on the Creatures of the Night album.
Lick It Up is the only instance of Vincent appearing on a KISS album by actual image. It is also the only KISS album where Vincent receives unambiguous and exclusive lead guitar credit. Except for "Fits Like A Glove" and "Dance All Over Your Face", written solely by Simmons, Vincent was co-writer in 8 of the 10 songs on the album for "Lick It Up". It is rumored that Vincent recorded every lead for the album's songs in their entirety and that Simmons went on to choose the parts of those leads that he liked best to fit the songs shortening Vincent's creative abilities. Apparently, Simmons wanted more of a melodic sound and feel which KISS fans had always heard and were accustomed to in Frehley's guitar solos. Additionally, Vincent would get "cut off" during his guitar solos live because both Stanley and Simmons felt that Vincent's leads went on too long.
Vincent's personality did not mesh well with either Stanley or Simmons and he was dismissed from KISS at the end of the Creatures tour. He was re-hired before recording started for Lick It Up because Simmons and Stanley could not find a new lead guitarist on such short notice. Personality issues arose once again and Vincent was fired following the Lick It Up tour and was replaced by Mark St. John (birth name Mark Norton). Vincent's work on Creatures of the Night continued to not be officially recognized until the album was remastered in 1997.
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". Before long however, Vincent, Simmons and Stanley fell out with each other for a third time permanently severing their musical and personal ties.
I named Vincent Cusano, "Vinnie Vincent." That's the only gift he's allowed. It's interesting that Vinnie hasn't changed his name back to Vinnie Cusano. Vinnie, for the record, was fired for unethical behavior, not because of lack of talent. The guy is very talented. He was unethical. He was fired.|||Gene Simmons
Vincent co-wrote, with Adam Mitchell, the song "Tears" under his real name. It was later recorded by former Babys lead singer John Waite (whom Ace Frehley wanted as lead singer for his post-Kiss band Frehley's Comet some years later) for his No Brakes album which was released on EMI America records. Waite also released the song as a single and it reached #37. Peter Criss also recorded a version of the song for his album, Let Me Rock You, which was released outside of the USA in 1983.
The VVI line-up included original lead singer Robert Fleischman (briefly the lead singer of Journey), who would be replaced by Mark Slaughter prior to the band's first tour, bass guitarist Dana Strum (both of whom would later form the band Slaughter) as well as drummer Bobby Rock, who would join the band Nelson after VVI's breakup.
Vincent briefly became involved with fighting censorship against rock music. In January 1987, he and Dana Strum visited the city of Goshen, Indiana in support of Marianne Hatfield, editor of a local rock magazine called Rock Rag Plus. Hatfield alleged that she was being harassed by the minister (Paul McGechie) and members of an Assemblies of God congregation, who believed Hatfield's magazine was "satanic". This event was covered in the local news media and in Rock Scene magazine.
A tribute album entitled "KISS MY ANKH: A Tribute To Vinnie Vincent" was released by SplitScreen Entertainment on August 27th, 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 & roll comic C.C. Banana, who performs a parody of the Kiss song "Unholy" (rewritten as a roast of Danger Danger vocalist Ted Poley).
In 1987, Vincent was quoted in "Rock Scene" magazine as saying that KISS would not allow him to use their name either to promote his solo career or to even mention the band in interviews. Throughout this interview, Vincent persistently and bitterly referred to KISS as either "The White Face Band" or simply "The Blank Band".
In late-1988, Vincent's $4 million contract with Chrysalis Records (for 8 albums) was taken away from him because he overextended his credit line with the label. The contract was transferred to Invasion members Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter, who by this time had formed the band Slaughter. Later on their debut album, "Stick It To Ya", there was a song that referenced this called "Burning Bridges".
Vincent's second suit against KISS in 1992 (again for $6 million) was for later songwriting royalties and other claims. That suit was dismissed because the amount Vincent requested was excessive, and once again, he was found to have been a salaried employee of the band.
In July 1997, Vincent filed another legal action against KISS, the individual band members, Polygram, and Horipro, alleging claims of breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and deceit, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conversion, imposition of constructive trust, breach of contract, infringement on the right of publicity, defamation, and open book account for royalties. This followed the release of the publication KISStory.
In January 1998, Vincent's ex-wife, Anne-Marie Cusano, disappeared from her home and her body was not found until late 2000. A drifter and convicted sex-offender was charged with the murder.