Rick Fusco – from tragedy to paradise



This unassuming, mild-mannered Clark Kent is quite simply a Superman on the guitar. Rick Fusco, at first glance, has more of a banker 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. Kind of his “secret identity” as it were.

He was born and raised in Wilmington, Del., the son of an auto mechanic, the sixth out of seven kids, where he remained until joining the United States Air Force at age 18. “I loaded airplanes in Anchorage, Alaska,” he said. “It was nice during the summer.” In 1986, he transferred to Dover, Delaware 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.”

In 2012, around 2 a.m. in the morning, Rick suffered a life-changing event that would eventually result in him moving to Key West to play music for a living full-time. “I was attacked after a show one night in Hockessin, and nearly beaten to death.” For whatever reason, Rick was violently beaten to within an inch of his life, and hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries. In the photos that I saw, he was completely unrecognizable. “A nurse saw me laying in the road unconscious, with my car door wide open, and the guys who did it running off.”

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-year old.”

But he wouldn’t give up. He 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 me 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,” he says with a light in his eye. “But never really enough.”

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, in hog heaven he is, then, because he has played with them, and many more, including the Key West bands Tackleboxx, the E’Claires and the Andy Westcott Band.

In fact, Rick is so busy, he only takes Mondays off. His current schedule, if you’d like to see him play, is every Tuesday at Blue Macaw, noon to 3 p.m. followed by Tiki House, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Wednesdays, noon to 3 p.m. at Two Friends Patio, Thursdays, 5 to 9 p.m. at Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant, Fridays at the Hard Rock Café, 6 to 9 p.m., Saturdays at Duval Central, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Sundays back at the Blue Macaw, 4 to 7 p.m. For those counting, that’s seven regular gigs a week.

Rick 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.

“You don’t choose Key West. It chooses you,” he said. “We’re just guests here. If you look around, everyone is truly happy here. The staff have all 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.”

In conclusion, Rick says, “I’m a simple man. My favorite thing to do is to just get on my scooter and ride. I think about the brown water and beaches back home, then I see our water and the sun. There’s nothing like it. I just want to keep on growing.” ¦

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