High energy. Pure joy. There’s simply no other way to describe Don Mancuso’s guitar style. Mancuso’s acclaimed artistry, versatility and professionalism have earned him the respect of his peers plus the accolades of worldwide audiences.
The Rochester, NY native began playing guitar at the age of six and began playing in earnest when he was a teen. A keen ear and study of the Rochester music scene allowed Mancuso to hone a unique style and an intense stage presence. By age 18, he was playing professionally with the blues-rock band Black Sheep, featuring vocalist Lou Gramm, who would go on to front the ‘80s supergroup Foreigner.
Black Sheep built a solid regional following before touring nationally in support of a host of legendary artists and bands, including Argent, Peter Frampton, Hall & Oats, KISS, Ted Nugent and Procol Harem. Black Sheep released two albums, Black Sheep and Encouraging Words, both of which featured songs penned in part by Mancuso.
When Gramm moved to Foreigner and Black Sheep disbanded, Mancuso explored many options. He studied classical guitar, dabbled in rock/fusion with the band Aurora, and did studio work in New York City with Ian Lloyd of Stories. He also studied piano and voice at the College of Marin in California. After returning to his beloved hometown of Rochester, he began playing with the band, Cheater, which quickly gained recognition in the northeastern U.S. with the 10-inch EP, “Ten Cent Love Affair.”
Over the years Mancuso has worked with a host of other artists including Imaginary Few, Johnny Smoke, Linda Rutherford & Celtic Fire, Steve Robb, Red Heart, Jessica Hamilton and Regi Hendrix.
His continued friendship with Lou Gramm allowed Mancuso to contribute to Gramm’s various solo projects, including Gramm’s successful debut solo album, Ready or Not, which featured the hit single, “Midnight Blue.“
Presently Mancuso divides his time between service as the guitarist in The Lou Gramm Band and work on his solo endeavors. His first solo album, Now You See It, was followed up by D:Drive, which featured the talents of Gramm, Phil Naro, Jeff Cosco, Jessica Hamilton, Dave Quick, Joe Lana, Larry Crozier, Brian Egglestein and fellow Lou Gramm Band member Andy Knoll.
While D:Drive began as a solo effort, it metamorphosed into a true band effort by the time the follow-up Straight Up The Middle made its debut in early 2007. Straight Up the
Middle featured the nucleus of Mancuso, Naro and Knoll. Gramm lent his voice to background vocals at Mancuso’s request. Originally a self-published effort, Straight up the Middle, drew the attention of Chavis Records and subsequently was released on the label in July 2007.
The future looks bright for Don Mancuso, who still plays for one reason: sharing his joy with others. “I do this for the love of playing,” he says. “I do this in hopes of making people smile with a momentary distraction from the daily grind.”
He also hopes he can be an inspiration to the next generation of guitarists. “I really feel blessed to have been given these gifts,” he says with a smile. “What else can I say, it makes me feel good to share these gifts with people who appreciate them.”
by Barbara Laughon