Although he forged a brief solo career in the late '80s, guitarist Vinnie Vincent is best known for his short stint in Kiss, from 1982-1984. Born Vincent Cusano on August 5, 1952, in Connecticut, he picked up guitar at a very early age, inspired by the speed of bluegrass (!) and rock & roll. Throughout the '70s, he recorded an unnoticed album with the band Treasure, and paid the bills by doing session work (for Laura Nyro, Dan Hartman, and writing music for the TV show Happy Days). After returning to heavy metal with the outfit Warrior, Cusano met Kiss' Gene Simmons through a mutual friend. Kiss was experiencing problems with original guitarist Ace Frehley at this time, so Simmons invited Vinnie to co-write some songs and play lead on 1982's Creatures of the Night. When it became clear that Frehley was leaving the band for good after the album's release, Cusano was asked to join the band.
Changing his name to Vinnie Vincent and assuming the alter ego of an Egyptian warrior (which his facial makeup and outfit reflected), he joined Kiss on their first U.S. tour in three years. Unfortunately, the public didn't welcome the band back with open arms, as the tour and the album weren't successful (even though Creatures was their best and heaviest release in years). After a string of mammoth, sold-out live dates in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 1983, Vincent worked with Kiss on their next album, Lick It Up, with which Vinnie had more of a prominent songwriting role. With extra publicity added to the album's release by the group finally "unmasking," Lick It Up was Kiss' first record in three years to obtain gold certification in the U.S. The subsequent tour was a rocky one for Vincent, however. Reportedly bickering over his salary, he was fired after a European tour, but was rehired for the American leg. When writing began for their next album (what would be 1984's Animalize), Vincent was either fired or left on his own, and replaced by Mark St. John.
Vincent soon formed the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, which signed to Chrysalis and issued a self-titled debut in 1986. The album was more pop-based than his heavier work with Kiss (the songs were mostly an excuse for Vincent to shred away on his six-string) but fit in with the then-popular glam/pop-metal climate (Poison, Bon Jovi, Ratt, etc.). After just one more album (1988's All Systems Go), the band split up, with singer Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum finding chart success with Slaughter in the early '90s. With a much delayed solo album and rumored box set never materializing, little was heard from Vincent as he appeared as a guest at Kiss conventions throughout the early '90s. He helped Kiss with some of the songwriting for their 1992 back-to-basics album Revenge, but the reconciliation with his former bandmembers didn't last long. By 1997, he had issued a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Kiss, declaring that he had not received the royalties he was entitled to. ~ Greg Prato