Vinnie Vincent

Vincent John Cusano (born August 6, 1952), better known as Vinnie Vincent, is a guitarist and songwriter most famous for his brief membership in the band Kiss. Vincent played on the album Creatures of the Night and subsequently toured with Kiss in "Ankh Warrior" makeup hurriedly created by Paul Stanley. Vincent was let go immediately after the tour, but was called back for 1983's Lick It Up, before being fired again from the band for alleged unethical behavior. He later performed as a solo artist and with his own band, Vinnie Vincent Invasion.

Replacing Ace Frehley in Kiss

A relatively unknown singer-guitarist named Vincent Cusano was brought in as an uncredited studio replacement for Ace Frehley during the recording sessions for Kiss' Creatures of the Night album. Frehley made a few appearances with the band while this album was being worked on, but his musical involvement with Kiss during this period had declined to almost total insignificance, as Frehley was increasingly working on solo albums and Frehley's Comet.

In addition to most of the lead guitar parts of the songs, Cusano also contributed to the writing of some of the songs, including "I Love It Loud" ["Killer"] and "I Still Love You", which became hits later. The video for "I Love It Loud" featured Frehley rather than Cusano because at the time, Kiss wanted fans to believe that Frehley was still in the band due to a pending lawsuit which involved two of the members. Frehley also appeared on the cover art for the album for that same reason. But once Kiss was ready to go on tour, Frehley refused to join them. And although the other band members harbored doubts about his personality, which Gene Simmons and Stanley seemed to consider egotistical and potentially dangerous for the band's chemistry, Cusano was still chosen to replace Frehley.

Cusano originally wanted to use his birth name in the band, but this was vetoed by Simmons, who instead suggested the stage name of Vinnie Vincent. Cusano has used "Vinnie Vincent" as his professional name since. When the band chose Vincent as Frehley's replacement, Vincent refused to sign the contract, which remains unsigned to this day. Kiss, facing many tour dates, asked Vincent to join them on tour despite the fact that the contract remained unexecuted by Vincent. Vincent ultimately used the "Ankh Warrior" makeup design and persona for which he is exclusively identified with to this day.

From 1982 to 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 on MTV.

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. When the album was re-mixed and re-released in 1985 with a non-makeup cover and a slightly different song order, Vincent was again absent from the album cover due to disputes over royalties which currently remains in dispute to this day, (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.

Vincent did appear on the Lick It Up album cover and is credited as the lead guitarist. He also was credited as a co-writer on 8 of the 10 songs on the album.

Vincent's personality meshed well with Stanley and Simmons, which is readily apparent when evaluating not only the qualtiy of the songwriting, but the live performances as well, especially the Lick It Up tour. However, Vincent's refusal to sign the employment contract strained the relationship. Due partly to disputes over what his role in the band 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, along with a growing attitude by Vincent that he was solely responsible for the resurgence of KISS (which has been galvanized by many Kiss fans as what has now become public opinion) was natural given Kiss's rise to success was based mainly on Vincent's songwriting. The cumulative result of these factors would ultimately lead to Vincent leaving the band (or being fired, depending on the source) after the European leg of the Lick It Up tour.[1]

With the band unable to secure a replacement guitarist on such short notice, Vincent was enticed to return for the American leg of the tour with the promise of payment of Vincent's royalties which were owing and overdue. However, with Kiss's failure to pay his royalties as promised, Vincent's refusal to sign his contract continued to be a sore point. Additionally, a major rift developed between Vincent and the rest of the band over his guitar solos; what were once 5-8 minute solos timed to finish on a cue so that Paul Stanley could introduce the next song suddenly expanded, in some instances leaving the rest of the band impatiently waiting on stage for Vincent to finish. At an LA Forum show in January 1984 Vincent continued playing despite Stanley's cueing him to finish the solo; the two nearly came to blows in the dressing room afterward, with Stanley accusing Vincent of showing him up and Vincent accusing the other three members of ruining his solo and trying to hold him back as a performer. They were separated by Carr and Simmons. At a March show in Quebec, Canada, 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 late March 1984, Vincent left the band permantly because he had not been paid any royalties during his 2 year tenure with band. Kiss attempted again to entice Vincent back with the "promise" of paying him royalties after the Lick It Up tour ended at the end of March 1983, but Vincent again refused, seeing it as a step backwards and began writing and recording demos of songs that appeared in their final form shortly thereafter on the Vinnie Vincent Invasion album. Vincent was replaced by Mark St. John (birth name Mark Norton).[2]

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". In early 1991 Simmons and Stanley received notice from the Bankruptcy Court that Vincent had declared bankruptcy and that they should put in a claim as one of Vincent's creditors if they were owed any money. Both Simmons and Stanley waived objection to Vincent's listing of his copyright assets to his Kiss songs and failed to file any claims in the bankruptcy, which resulted in the appellate court's findings that Vincent's songrights assets reverted to him by technical abandonment. Simmons, claiming that he was "horrified"[3] to hear the news that Vincent had fallen on such hard times, extended an olive branch to Vincent by telling him to forget about whatever had happened between them in the past and just get together to write some music. Before long however, 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".[4] However, the truth was that because Vincent was continually on call for nearly one year during the making of "Revenge" Vincent asked for an advance against royalties to compensate him for his time, especially since he was not a member of the band at that point. The usual tantrum erupted at Vincent's request marking the third and final time which permanently severed their musical and personal ties, In 1997, Vincent sued Simmons and the band's management over songwriting royalties and other matters. The lawsuit was not settled until 2001.

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.

Before and after Kiss

Vincent was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Before joining Kiss, Vincent was in several bands, the most popular being Treasure (1978-1979). He toured with Dan Hartman, whose 1978 release Instant Replay produced an international single by the same name as well as a promotional video in which Vinnie performs.[5] Vinnie also provided background vocals and lead guitar solo on the album's closing track, "Time and Space". Vincent was also a staff songwriter for the television series Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi.[6] According to the site "Kiss Related Recordings" Vincent has also played with the bands Hunter, Warrior, Hitchhikers, and Heat going as far back as 1970.

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. Columbia Records recording artist Rex Smith also recorded "Tears".

After being fired from Kiss following the Lick It Up tour, Vincent formed Vinnie Vincent Invasion (also known as VVI), which released two LPs: Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986) and All Systems Go (1988).

The VVI line-up included original lead singer Robert Fleischman (briefly the lead singer of Journey, and Vinnie's singer during the 1990s). Fleischman and Vincent's chemistry was unmatched. Fleischman was Vincent's preference as vocalist, and despite Vincent's enormous efforts, Chrysalis, failing to know a good thing when they saw it, destroyed the chemistry, letting Fleischman go unrewarded which forced him to resign. Vincent, disheartened and disillusioned, was forced to tour in support of his first explosive release named "Vinnie Vincent Invasion" with a replacement singer Mark Slaughter who Vincent felt was substandard to the quality which Vincent had not only strived for in his music but achieved as evidenced by the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion album. Slaughter andDana Strum (both of whom would later form the band Slaughter) as well as drummer Bobby Rock, who would join the band Nelson after Vincent made the conscious decision in 1988 to disband the "group" after Vincent's disenchantment with Vincent's second album, "All Systems Go" and with Chrysalis's pandering to the "music scene."

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.

He also helped The Bangles with songwriting and played the electric 12 string guitar on the 1988 album, Everything for one song, "Make a Play For Her Now" which Vinnie wrote with Vickie Peterson.

As a solo artist, he has released an EP (Euphoria, 1996, with Robert Fleischman)and Andre LaBelle on drums, and an album entitled Speedball Jamm. In 1990 Vinnie Vincent Invasion was to release an album entitled "Guitars From Hell" but it was unreleased. However, the inferior sounding demo tracks from "Guitars From Hell" remain one of the most coveted bootlegs among collectors. It is rumored that the master recordings of "Guitars From Hell" may be available, however it remains unconfirmed. He was also to release a solo album called "Guitarmaggedon" in 1997-1998 which is also rumored to be an upcoming release.

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 & roll comic C.C. Banana, who performs a parody of the Kiss song "Unholy" (rewritten as a roast of Danger Danger vocalist Ted Poley).[7]

Since the mid-1990s, Vincent has rarely been seen in public and has largely dropped out of the public eye. In mid 2010, it was announced that Vincent's signature Double V guitar that he is synonomously known for and which he personally designed would be premiered at NAMM 2011, the cost of the guitars are $9000 with a special anniversary addition costing $12000. It is unknown as to whether or not Vincent will appear. There have also been several rumors as to his whereabouts now, but the general thought is for him to be now living in Nashville, Tennessee. The last known picture taken of Vincent was thought to have been from 2003. Numerous interviews have taken place with his former VVI band mates since the early 2000s with some being as recent as early 2010 and all have no idea where Vinnie Vincent is or has been for the last decade, and none have talked to Vinnie since the late 90's. All mentions of Vinnie from Kiss have been very minimal over the last few years, with no members going into great detail. Unfortunetly Vinnie is the subject of multiple impersonators, such as the Vinnie Vincent Facebook profile which has been proven to be completely fake.

Legal troubles

Vinnie Vincent has sued Kiss twice after being fired for the second time in 1984. The first lawsuit (for $6 million), filed in approximately 1986, was over royalties that Vincent believed he was owed for performance and songwriting. The Court dismissed his case in 1999, however, the appellate court overturned the ruling in a windfall decision in favor of Vincent in 2001. Although the suit was ultimately found in favor of Kiss, the case is still active in the courts on the grounds Vincent never signed an agreement with Kiss, which has been confirmed by the group as recent as 2007.

In 1987, Vincent was quoted in Rock Scene magazine as saying that Kiss would not allow him to use their name to promote his solo career, nor could he 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, unhappy with Chrysalis's handling of his recordings and career, refused to extend Chrysalis the option for third record when Chrysalis accidentally breached their option deadline to renew Vincent's contract in late September 1989. Chrysalis had a leaving member option on the salaried employees Vincent used as band mates. Left without Vinnie Vincent under contract, and attempting to capitalize on Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Chrysalis picked up the option on two remaining employees who formed the band Slaughter. The rumors that Vincent was kicked out of his own band was internet rumor and hearsay which had no basis in fact.

Vincent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989.[8]

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. Due to new evidence, the suit is still active in the courts.

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.

On October 2, 2006, the Supreme Court refused to hear Vincent's appeal regarding the dispute between his former band mates over song and music royalties. [9] Given the Supreme Court only reviews about 75 cases per year out of the approximate 5000 cases submitted annually, it was expected that Vincent's case would not be heard. Notwithstanding, new evidence which directly pertains to the underlying case renders the Supreme Court's refusal to hear Vincent's case of little importance.