This unassuming, mild-mannered Clark Kent is quite simply a Superman on the guitar. Rick Fusco, at first glance, has more of a banker’s demeanor than a rock star, but that’s OK because he was a banker for JPMorgan Chase for 20 years, while playing music at night. It’s kind of his ‘secret identity’ as it were.
He was born and raised in Wilmington, Del., the son of an auto mechanic, the sixth of seven children, where he remained until joining the U. S. Air Force at 18. “I loaded airplanes in Anchorage, Alaska,” he said. “It was nice during the summer.” In 1986, he transferred to Dover, Del., for a while to be nearer to home, so that he could visit regularly.
“I got two record deals. One with Mike Heins and the Look at Atlantic Records, and one with Final Mixx at Motown,” he said. “After those two projects ran their course, I got into banking. But I still played music on the weekends.”
One day in 2012 at about 2 a.m. in Hockessin, Del., a life-changing event eventually resulted in him moving to Key West to play music full time for a living.
“I was attacked after a show one night and nearly beaten to death. A nurse saw me lying in the road unconscious, with my car door wide open, and the guys who did it running off,” he said. For whatever reason, the violent attack almost killed him. He was hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries. In photos taken at the time, he was completely unrecognizable.
It was a slow recovery. “I tried to go back to banking, but I couldn’t compete. I couldn’t play guitar. I broke down and cried like a 5-yearold.” But he wouldn’t give up and began using his guitar as a therapeutic tool. “It was like connecting the dots. From brain to hands.”
Rick’s sister lived in Fort Myers, so during a visit, he came to Key West. “Eric Levy and Tom Taylor invited me to come down, and I fell in love with the place. I went home and asked my family if they had any objection to my moving here. Because of what I’d gone through, they supported it. I gave my notice to JPMorgan and came to Key West with $3,000.”
Rick has three children from a previous marriage, Amber, 28, Nick, 17, and Reagan, 15. “They visit as often as they can, but never really enough,” he says.
His first gig was at Geiger Key Marina, then at the White Tarpon. “I started meeting other musicians, Rolando Rojas, Yvonne, Rusty Lemmon and Carl Wagoner. I was thinking that if I could ever get to play with those guys, I’d be in hog heaven. ”
Well, he’s in hog heaven now, because he has played with them, and many others, including the Key West bands Tackleboxx, the E’Claires, and the Andy Westcott Band. In fact, Rick is so busy, he only takes Sundays off. If you’d like to see him play, his current schedule is: 4-7 p.m. Mondays at the Blue Macaw; 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon with the Andy Westcott Band and noon-3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons at Two Friends Restaurant; 6-10 p.m. Thursdays at the Conch Republic Seafood Company; noon- 3 p.m. Fridays at the
Shores Pool and 6-8 p.m. at the Hard Rock; and 6-9 p.m. Saturdays at Dante’s Pool. And on the seventh day, he rests.
Rick has been doing some songwriting of his own recently, and plans to put out his own CD, hopefully within the next year. He counts among his many influences Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. “Also, Andy Westcott and Caffeine Carl inspire me in ways I can’t even emphasize.” But his set list has even a greater variety. “I play Elton John, Allman Brothers, Matchbox 20, Maroon 5, and a lot of R&B, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye.”
It appears Rick has put down Key West roots like a banyan tree. “I just want to keep on growing,” he says.
“You don’t choose Key West, it chooses you. (Everyone has) moved here from somewhere else to live in this beautiful place. At their inner core, they’re happy, and the people who come here as tourists are happy. You don’t move here; Key West calls you.” ¦