Real Name: Vincent Cusano
Birthday: August 6, 1952
Married: Divorced, two children (twins)
Songwriter for: The Happy Days TV Show, KISS, John Waite, and John Norum.
Vincent Cusano played in a band called Treasure in 1978 and recorded an album with them. Moving on, he recorded with a band called Warrior in 1980, but the album was never released.
When Ace Frehley began his separation from the KISS ranks in 1982, Vincent Cusano, among others, stepped in to record with KISS for the album Creatures of the Night. Cusano contributed several songs to the album, including "I Love it Loud" and "War Machine." The album was a return to form for KISS, who had been somehow transformed into a pop band by their incredible popularity and bad management. Along with the drumming power of Eric Carr, Cusano helped infuse energy into the band's style and songwriting.
When it became evident that Ace would not be touring with the band either, Vincent Cusano became Vinnie "Whiz" Vincent and assumed the make-up incarnation of a Pharoah, with the Egyptian symbol of life, the ankh, painted on his forehead. His status with the band was initially announced as temporary, while Ace recovered from a car accident. (The cover of Creatures of the Night even featured Ace Frehley, something Vinnie would resent later.)
Finally, it was revealed that Ace Frehley had left the band and Vinnie Vincent was his replacement. Many fans felt the band had somewhat hidden Ace's departure and were expecting to see Ace on-stage, only to find someone else playing the classic solos. KISS continued to be hugely popular in Europe and South America, where the band played its final makeup show in Brazil to a crowd of 200,000+ fans with Vinnie on guitar.
Eventually, things settled down and Vinnie entered the recording studio to record Lick It Up with Gene, Paul and Eric in 1983. Contributing even more songs, like the title cut, Vinnie's place seemed assured. But, trouble brewed just under the surface. Vinnie was upset when several of his guitar solos were cut short or forcibly re-done. Vinnie felt as if he wasn't being allowed to play at full potential. He also claimed that he was kept in a rat and roach infested motel during the recording sessions, while the rest of the band stayed in first class accomodations.
Gene and Paul felt that his style, a full-blown, all-out string bending/tapping extravaganza, was not what KISS was all about. They favored the more melodic style that Ace was known for and they were having trouble integrating Vinnie's then fashionable speed metal guitar technique into their old-school "music first, chops second" scheme of thinking. Vinnie toned it down, bit the bullet, and toured with the band in support of the album.
When Vinnie took to the stage in the latter part of the Lick It Up tour in early 1984, he slowly started extending his guitar solo spot in the show. Finally, he began interrupting songs with extended solos that had not been rehearsed or prepared for. Clearly, he was not being a team player. Part of this may have been caused by the fact that Vinnie had never signed a contract to be a member of KISS.
After the tour was completed, it was evident that Vinnie would not be returning for the next album. Vinnie went on to form the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, which was signed to Chrysalis Records in 1986. The line-up featured Vinnie on guitar, of course; Robert Fleischman on vocals; Dana Strum on bass and Bobby Rock on drums. Their first album, Invasion was released in 1986 and was markedly different from KISS's style. It was balls-out and over-the-top, almost to the point of self-parody.
In 1988, a second album, All Systems Go, was released, featuring a new vocalist, Mark Slaughter. Somehow, the band ended up dissolving and the half of the band (Slaughter and Strum) kept their recording contract with Chrysalis and formed Slaughter, adding Tim Kelly on lead guitar and Blas Elias on drums. They went on to sell millions of records and receive tons of MTV airplay until mainstream hard rock became somewhat unfashionable in 1991.
From 1988 until 1992, Vinnie stayed out of the spotlight. All sorts of rumors about him were bandied about, but none of them are worth repeating. In 1992, supposedly because Gene Simmons felt sorry for him, Vinnie was asked to write several songs with Gene and Paul Stanley for the KISS album, Revenge. Revenge was another heavy album for the band, who'd again sort of strayed into pop territory in the late '80's. The songs, "Unholy" and "I Just Wanna", are two of the Vincent/KISS collaborations that made it to the actual album.
In the spring of 1996, Vinnie appeared at a series of European KISS conventions and signing autographs. (He even donned his ankh makeup, which prompted a cease and desist order from the KISS organization.) He was also selling an EP, Euphoria which features songs from a forthcoming album entitled Guitarmageddon, which will be released on Metaluna Records.
In August of 1996, his official website published an interview which was to serve as his first expose of his experiences in KISS. It turned out to be a slam on not only his treatment in KISS, but an advertisement for a "tell all" book he's writing. In the book, Vinnie said that he would reveal "the truth" about the death of Eric Carr.
In July, 1997, Vinnie sued KISS, claiming the band owes him massive amounts of royalties that weren't paid because he refused to sign a contract with the band in 1984. That contract, he claims, would have cut his $2000 a week salary in half and would have given the band control over his songwriting rights.