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Warren Cuccurullo

 

Frank Zappa. Missing Persons. Duran Duran.

This page will better explain some of the guitars of Missing Persons founder and former Zappa and Duran Duran guitar player. This won't span his entire career, and will only focus on several of the guitars Warren used mostly from the Zappa era (1979) to the Skin Trade era of Duran Duran (1988). Some of this information is comprised of interviews, books, and video clips I've come across. I will do my best to cite and give examples of this information. Unfortunately information is far and few in between. For those interested in the tones of Warren Cuccurullo, I present to you...The Guitarist Information Page.

Vox Winchester
  1979-1983

Frank Zappa purchased this guitar during a European leg of his 1978 tour. It was purchased at a second hand shop in England. The guitar was a concept prototype produced in early 1967 by Dick Denny of Vox. This according to the very informative and highly recommended 'Zappa Gear' by Mick Ekers. According to his research only two of these guitars exist. While arguments on various Vox related websites put that number at twelve, there is a report of up to 60 Vox wah-wah style bass bodies being built. Either way, there were only a couple of handfuls worth of these guitars that were manufactured 50+ years ago. My guess is only several of these exist anymore. I own an original Winchester, but there is additional debate among Vox collectors of the validity of some of these Winchesters that have appeared for sale in recent years. None (other than Strawbs guitarist Dave Lambert's example) seem to look like Zappa's- which was eventually handed down to Warren.

 

In 1979 the guitar was given to Cuccurullo as part payment for his work on Zappa's album 'Joe's Garage'. Cuccurullo who at the time was part of Zappa's touring band had contributed some guitar and vocals for Joe's Garage earlier that year. Cuccurullo had Zappa's guitar tech Eddie Clothier add onboard active electronics, and LED power indicator, an overdrive unit and various additional controls. The original tuners have been replaced with Ibanez star tuners, and the brass nut and string clamp have been added. (page 33-35, 'Zappa Gear') The video for Missing Persons 'Words' shot in late 1981 features the Vox Winchester in its modified form. In his Feb 1985 Guitar Player Magazine feature, he mentioned he used the Vox, a slim neck Gibson ES-335, and a modified SG on the self-titled EP and Spring Session M. At the US Festival in 1983, he introduced a new small-bodied guitar he had co-designed with Performance Guitar in Hollywood. Cuccurullo called upon Zappa's main guitar builder Kunio "Kenny" Sugai of Performance Guitar to build him a a neck through body instrument shaped like the Vox Winchester, only slightly larger. (Guitar Player Magazine Feb 1985)

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Size difference between a Vox Winchester and inspired by Performance Guitar

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            Performance Guitar "Cuccurullo"

                              1983-1988

 

Handmade of maple, the neck duplicates the size of his 335, has standard tuners and an ebony fingerboard. It's three pickups comprised of a Carvin Humbucker in both the neck and bridge positions, and a Bill Lawrence L-250 Blade pickup- activated by a 5-way switch. Eddie Clothier added onboard gear, including two pre-amps, a parametric eq, two types of distortions, passive tone controls, and a master volume. (Guitar Player Magazine Feb 1985) Kunio "Kenny" Sugai of Performance Guitars said he made two of these guitars for Warren in 1983.

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Performance Guitar "Cuccurullo" main guitar.
First used at US Festival (1983). Used as a touring guitar for various Missing Persons shows + all guitar on Rhyme & Reason (1984) + Color In Your Life Tour (1986) + Duran Duran's TV appearances (1986-1987) + The Strange Behavior Tour (1987-1988).

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Master luthier Kunio "Kenny" Sugai with Warren's backup Performance guitar he built in 1983. (Photo from 2014)

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Performance Guitar "Cuccurullo" Backup Guitar.
Most likely his backup guitar. Used as a prop guitar for various playback performances with Duran Duran (1986), also used in the music video for 'Skin Trade' (1987). This guitar has two additional pre-amps, passive tone controls, and a master volume but does not feature the two additional distortions. Notice the lack of dotted inlays on the fretboard and is missing the additional knobs on the bottom portion of the guitar. This guitar also featured a Floyd Rose bridge.

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'Skin Trade' Music video- Feb 1987

Countdown TV Show- Oct 1986

 

"Missing Link" Arndt Anderson- Mag Guitars

 

Between the Rhyme & Reason sessions and tour, Warren co-designed the Missing Link's body with Thomas Nordegg and manufacture Arndt Anderson. Eddie Clothier designed and installed the guitar's on-board electronics and suggested looping the necks together. According to Cuccurullo "The whole guitar is made out of magnesium, which feels really good. I like it's brightness and good high end, plus it's warm at the same time. I usually use ebony fingerboards, but the magnesium feels fantastic. The neck is thin in the back, almost shaved." The three pickups on the bottom half- a Seymour Duncan Mag, a Bartolini single coil, and a Carvin Extra-Power Tremble, from neck to bridge- work from a standard 5- way switch. The top guitar, which will somedaybe used for alternative tuning, is outfitted with two double-coil pickups, a Bartolini 1E and a DiMarzio X2N. The bridges are DiMarzio. Cuccurullo and his co-designers had planned to market the Missing Link once it was perfected. (Guitar Player Magazine Feb '85) I found an old price sheet from Mag Guitars presumably giving out at Summer NAMM 1984. Included in the price list was a "Missing Link" guitar priced at $2,500. Using the inflation calculator, that's a little over $6,500 in today's currency. (2021)

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"Missing Link" First Edition

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"Missing Link" Second Edition

Upon researching, some internet forum members thought that Warren had auctioned this guitar off on eBay around the time his tenure with Duran Duran ended in 2001. There's no proof to these claims, and unfortunately eBay does not have a central information bank from that long ago. What i have found is that Warren did auction off two guitars reportedly used on the 'Wedding Album' and his studio mixing desk in 2001. Additionally I found a photo credited from 2011 that shows Warren playing a guitar with the Missing Link viewable in the rear of the photo. It's also worth noting his Performance Vox guitar headstock is viewable next to the Missing Link. As mentioned above you could have purchased a "Missing Link" from Arndt Anderson in the middle of 1984 for $2,500. If one of these additional Missing Links were ever built and quite possibly one could have been, this may explain the auctioned off eBay Missing Link guitar from approx 20 yrs ago.

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Shark Byte Engineering

Let's talk a little about the company, Shark Byte Engineering. Shark Byte started out as "Magnesium Guitars", back in 1983. We originally made "the magnesium guitar", back then on a very limited production basis. As a private consultant and mechanical engineer for "Missing Persons", Arndt Anderson created some of the most state-of-the-art musical instruments of the time. Magnesium Guitars took a detour at this time, and began producing "The Shark", a piezo-electric drum trigger pedal used mostly with synth drums, by drummers all over the world. The likes of Phil Collins, Alan White, Neil Peart, and most notably Rick Allen of Def Leppard, all played the Shark at one time or another.

   Concurrently, along with the musical projects, Arndt also was doing precision-prototype machining for the aerospace/defense industry. He worked on component parts for the space shuttle, the stinger missile project, and the patriot missile project to name a few. Most recently, (due to military downsizing), Arndt has been building advanced automation equipment used in factories producing electronic and sensor technology.

   During this entire 17 year period, the fire was still burning to build guitars. These guitars are what we believe is the culmination of a life-long quest to produce quality instruments at a price anyone can afford. (http://www.magnumguitars.com/ Circa 2002)

Performance Custom Super Strat

In 1986 Warren took delivery of another custom guitar by Performance. Little is known about this guitar and it's background. Up to this point and arguably even today Cuccurullo is most famously known for the little Vox wah-wah style guitars. This Custom Performance Guitar is reminiscent of one of their most popular models the Corsair. The Corsair was a product of it's time. A "Super Strat" similar to an Ibanzez or a Kramer that was popular at the time. The headstock is very reminiscent of a Kramer. Sporting a SSH pickup layout here's where things start to differ and help tell the story. The humbucker pickup is likely a Carvin which Warren and fellow Missing Persons bandmates had an endorsement deal with in the mid 80s. The two single coils appear to be early model Seymour Duncan Hot Rails. Where things get even crazier is the additional electronics installed. This has the famous "Zappa EQ" system installed on the guitar with additional Q filters controls and 3 additional pre-amp models, a parametric eq, and a coil split option on the Carvin pickup. I can only speculate that at the time Cuccurullo was planning to come back and play with Zappa's band as his setup had never consisted nor needed to be able to dial in the Zappa "wah quack" tone. There are also reports that Zappa had asked Cuccurullo to be apart of his 1988 touring band, but his Duran Duran commitments wouldn't provide the opportunity for that to happen. There is a photo floating around dated as of November 1986 that shows Cuccurulo playing the Performance Super Strat during an unknown performance. Upon doing my research I found Warren has used this guitar for various TV show playbacks including during 'Skin Trade' on a Japanese New Years special in late 1986, during a performance of 'Notorious' in 1987 for an Ibiza Olympics celebration performance and during tour rehearsals on the "Three To Get Ready" documentary. I initially thought the guitar was used as a prop for various playback performances but there seems to be evidence of the guitar being in normal rotation during the "Strange Behavior Tour".

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Photos posted in the shop at Performance Guitar in Hollywood, CA. The photo above is from the Performance website under 'Artist'. The photo below is from a Facebook post. The fretboard appears to be maple with black inlays, but the body and headstock look identical. This could have been an additional build or a new neck could have been swapped before tour.

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Still from Duran Duran's documentary "Three To Get Ready" (1987)

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Notice the additional controls labeled 'N', 'T', and 'V'. The 'N' controls the 3 pre-amp settings (off, highest, mid, low) The 'T' control the Q frequencies and the 'V' controls the blending of the Q filter and the pre-amp settings. The additional smaller knobs are passive tone controls. The switch next to the middle knob is a coil-split for the humbucker. The switch above the first knob is to select the mode with the Q and pre-amp, or to utilize the traditional pickup settings. The largest knob is a volume control and there is a 5 way switch.

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Duran Duran 'Skin Trade' performance Ibiza Olympics '92 Celebration (1987)

Japanese TV show 'Skin Trade' New Years Eve '87

(Dec 31st, 1986)