Warren Cuccurullo: Missing Persons, Duran Duran

Why You Should Know Him

After a successful career during the ‘70s as a member of Frank Zappa’s band, Warren Cuccurullo took his experimental and unique playing style to the popular music world and released music with the new wave bands, Duran Duran and Missing Persons.

Missing Persons included four veterans of Zappa’s band: Cuccurullo, drummer Terry Bozzio, bassist Patrick O'Hearn, and vocalist Dale Bozzio. The new wave band became an instant hit in the Los Angeles music scene, and the group released three studio records as well as a four-song debut EP, recorded in Frank Zappa’s home studio in 1980.

Missing Persons’ revolutionary first album, Spring Sessions M, took Cuccurullo’s unique playing style and textural approach to the guitar, perfected during his time with Zappa, and embedded it into a pop format. The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard 200 charts and was later certified gold by the RIAA. Popular tracks from Spring Sessions M include “Destination Unknown,” “Words,” and “Walking in LA.” Cuccurullo’s inventive playing style helped put Missing Persons at the forefront of the ‘80s new wave movement and helped to define the genre’s sound.

After Missing Persons disbanded in 1986, Cuccurullo went on to join Duran Duran as the replacement for guitarist Andy Taylor. Taylor had been casually playing with Missing Persons before their breakup, which led to Cuccurullo’s opportunity to join Duran Duran as a session and tour guitarist in 1986, and as a full-time member in 1989.

Cuccurullo lent his talents to two Duran Duran albums during the ‘80s. Notorious was released in 1986 with the title track reaching number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts, and 1988’s Big Thing included the hit, “I Don’t Want Your Love,” which peaked at number 5. He remained a member of Duran Duran for the next decade (writing and playing on numerous hit records with the group) until 2001 when the original band lineup including Andy Taylor reformed.

The Gear

Cuccurullo is well known for being less than conventional in his guitar rigs and the resulting sounds that he is able to coax out of them.

After playing fairly “standard” instruments in Zappa’s band like Gibson SGs and ES-335s, Cuccurullo began playing guitars with smaller and more modern body shapes that fit the image of Missing Persons and Duran Duran. He was often seen playing headless and nearly body-less Steinberger guitars, which featured carbon fiber in place of traditional wood for its tone.

One of Cuccurullo’s most unique instruments is a guitar whose body and other components were fashioned out of a Vox Wah pedal. The instrument included an active equalizer, preamp, and overdrive circuit all within the body. Another of Cuccurullo’s signature instruments, a double-neck electric that he invented himself and named, “The Missing Link,” can be seen in the music video for the Missing Persons song, “Give.”

During the mid-1980s, Cuccurullo was endorsed by Carvin, and used Carvin X-1000 heads and full, two-cabinet, 4x12 stacks.

Some of the effects that Cuccurullo used during the Spring Sessions M album included the Foxx Tone Machine fuzz, Morley echo/volume pedals, ADA flanger, and the MXR Phase 100. He also made use of an e-bow for some of the more sustained sounds on the album.

Where Is He Now?

Despite a short reunion of the three original members of Missing Persons in 2001, as well as numerous attempts at subsequent reunions and a pseudo-reunion tour in 2011 consisting of Cuccurullo and Dale Bozzio, there seems to be no indication that the group has any intentions of officially reforming.

Cuccurullo has since developed a strong interest in the EDM movement and currently works with electronic producers in the dubstep, glitch, and electro genres (not surprising considering his involvement in Duran Duran’s Big Thing, often categorized as a house album).

In 2010 Cuccurullo released an experimental progressive rock album infused with electronic dance elements with Neil Carlill under the name, Chicanery. The album was produced by Simone Sello and featured Terry Bozzio on drums as well as numerous other guest musicians.

2013 finally saw the release of a collaboration with Duran Duran keyboardist, Nick Rhodes, of experimental electronic music entitled, Bored with Prozac and the Internet?, after master tapes from 1995-96 were rediscovered.

His last and most recent solo release was in 2015 with an album entitled n’liten up that was released via Bandcamp. He has since purchased and opened two restaurants in California called ‘Hidden’ and ‘Via Venito,’ both of which are popular with the locals and celebrities alike. Cuccurullo continues to focus on his music along with a few side projects including a Jazz group called The Theoretical Five.


Bonus Video: Cuccurullo may have done his greatest work with Duran Duran as they entered the '90s. This was the first song off the band's fantastic 1993 release, The Wedding Album.

Back to the Top 40 Under-Appreciated Guitarists of the 1980s.

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