The person we know as Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier on February 4, 1948. But we also know Alice Cooper as a band whose stage show often included a guillotine, gallows, electric chair, fake blood, boa constrictor and butchered baby dolls.
In 1964, a sixteen year-old Furnier wanted to enter a local Phoenix, Arizona talent show. He got some friends from his cross-country team to form a group they called The Earwigs for the show. Since they didn't know how to play any instruments at the time, they dressed up like The Beatles and lip-synced to Beatles songs.
They won the talent show and were motivated to learn how to play instruments and form a real band which they called The Spiders. It featured Furnier on vocals, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, John Tatum on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and John Speer on drums.
They modeled themselves on mainstream rock bands of the time - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds. For the next year the band performed regularly around the Phoenix area with a huge black spider's web as their backdrop, the group's first stage prop.
In 1965 they recorded their first single, "Why Don't You Love Me" (a cover of a song originally performed by The Blackwells), with Furnier learning the harmonica for that song.
In 1966 "The Spiders" graduated from high school. Michael Bruce, replaced John Tatum on rhythm guitar, the band scored a local #1 radio hit with "Don't Blow Your Mind," an original composition from their second single release.
By 1967 the band had begun to make regular road trips to Los Angeles, California to play shows. They soon renamed themselves The Nazz and released the single "Wonder Who's Lovin' Her Now," backed with future Alice Cooper track "Lay Down And Die, Goodbye." At around this time drummer John Speer was replaced by Neal Smith. By the end of the year the band had relocated to Los Angeles permanently.
In 1968 they learned that Todd Rundgren also had a band called Nazz, so they needed a new stage name.
They decided the group needed some kind of stage presence or unique stage showmanship to make their mark. Furnier chose "Alice Cooper" as the band's name and eventually adopted this stage name as his own.
Early press releases claimed that the name was agreed upon after a session with a Ouija board, during which it was revealed that Furnier was the reincarnation of a 17th century witch named Alice Cooper.
In later interviews, Alice has said that it was just picked because it has the sound of "a sweet little girl" or an old lady.
More important than the name was the idea of a male playing the role of an androgynous witch, in tattered women's clothing and wearing make-up.
Cooper has said the look was influenced by the film Barbarella.
"When I saw Anita Pallenberg playing the Great Tyrant in that movie in 1968, wearing long black leather gloves with switchblades coming out of them, I thought, 'That's what Alice should look like'. That, and a little bit of Emma Peel from The Avengers".
The concept of a rock villain was unique and they continued to build their stage image which was in complete contrast to the real "Alice" off stage.
Alice Cooper, the band, originally consisted in 1968 of Furnier on vocals and harmonica, Glen Buxton on lead guitar, Michael Bruce on rhythm guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass guitar, and Neal Smith on drums. They broke into the international music mainstream with the 1971 hit "I'm Eighteen". It was followed in 1972 by the even bigger single "School's Out", which reached #1 in the UK during that summer. The band reached its commercial peak with the transatlantic #1 album Billion Dollar Babies in 1973.
Furnier's launched a solo career as Alice Cooper, legally adopting the band's name as his own, with his 1975 concept album Welcome to My Nightmare and continued with hit albums like 1989's "Poison".
His most recent studio release is his 18th solo album from 2008, Along Came a Spider.
The music has gone from its garage rock roots, to include art rock, conceptual rock, rock and roll, jazz, new wave, and especially early heavy metal.
He helped to shape the sound and certainly the look of many metal bands.
Alice Cooper, the man, does acting, and is a golfing celebrity, a restaurateur, and since 2004 a popular radio DJ with his classic rock show "Nights with Alice Cooper."
This month, the original Alice Cooper group was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Best Of Alice Cooper: Mascara and Monsters
Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits
Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
Billion Dollar Babies