Aaron Butler: How
did you join the Pigeons, the group that became Vanilla Fudge?
Vince Martell: I
was in the Navy before that. I joined Kiddy Cruise, where you get out
of the Navy before you're twenty-one if you join when you're
seventeen. After the Navy I came back to New York, and a few days
later my folks were moving to Florida. At the time there was no point
in my staying in the New York area, so I went to Florida with them.
There I joined a band... we played in a couple of places like Miami,
Key West - you know, shrimp bars there where they throw money at you
and all that stuff?
That band broke up
when the bass player had some personal troubles. When that happened I
moved back to New York where my parents were again, and my other
relatives. There I had cards made up, went down to the union hall,
joined 802, went down to the Roseland Ballroom in the City on 52nd
Street. Every Wednesday they would have the Musician's Union meeting.
I had my cards and I was looking to network a little bit and rub
elbows with people in the business, and see what was going on.
I ran into an
agent, Sal-something (I can't remember his last name and I think he's
since passed on). He had known of Mark [Stein] and Timmy [Bogert],
who had been in a group called Rick Martin & The Showmen. They
had just gotten out of it, along with a drummer named Joey Brennan
from Kearny, New Jersey. So Sal knew of a band that was looking for a
guitarist, and I was a guitarist. So we swapped cards and that was it.
I must have handed
out a lot of cards that day and I wouldn't even have thought about
it. But I did get a call from either Mark or Joey, the drummer, maybe
three or four days later. They asked if I'd like to do a little
jamming at the bass player's house in Jersey. I said yeah, sure, that
was the whole idea.
So they came over,
Joey and Mark, to pick me up at my folk's place. I had the '63 cherry
red Gibson 335 hollow body that I'd picked up a couple of years
earlier in Florida (the same one I used on the first couple of
albums). We got in the car and went over to Fort Lee, New Jersey,
because Mark Stein had just got his new Hammond B-3 organ and it was
in Timmy's front porch. Timmy lived in a real nice residential area
of New Jersey. Paved roads - not like the Bronx where you get paved,
cobblestone, pothole... [laughs]... but paved roads with sidewalks -
like you saw in the school books when you were a kid... [laughs again].
We got up on the
front porch there - it was an enclosed porch - and we proceeded to
jam away and do a bunch of different tunes. I thought these guys were
pretty... you know, [Mark, Tim, and Joey] had been playing together
for months, perhaps years... so they were pretty tight with what they
were doing and I always felt confident with what I was doing.
It worked out
really nice, they seemed to have a lot going for them. They were an
organized band who knew what tunes they wanted to do. I'd been
playing some Black blues clubs in Florida before I came up to New
York, and I had been with this group called Ricky T And The Satans
Three. So I was used to playing a lot of blues-based type of tunes.
You know, the three-chord blues progressions. I could jam that stuff
day and night - even up to this day I still love doing that.
I followed them
with what they were doing with their tunes, and evidently they liked
what I was doing, and the whole thing seemed very natural - it was
like a shoe-in. I don't remember a specific question and answer but I
guess they asked me to join the band.
From there we
planned to move ahead - which is what we did for about... I guess six
months with Joey, and at that point....
Joey was very
good.... Just to backtrack on Joey Brennan for a minute... he was one
of these guys like a Mick Jagger type. He sang just like him, he
lived like him - he was a good looking guy and all the girls liked
him. We'd get off stage after a set in the club, and the four of us
would walk up to the bar and you'd see about four or five girls walk
over to Joey. So he'd be talking to them, the three of us would get
rum & Cokes and just watch enviously. The girls would gravitate
to Joey. I really haven't kept up with him since, but if he's out
there and sees the Web site or something it'd be nice to hear from
him - see what he's been doing.
Joey was like a
straight ahead Rock drummer, he wasn't like a Carmine [Appice], funky
with different dynamics. Joey was straight ahead, which was very good
for his style. But basically what happened is that Mark and Timmy
wanted to make a change and were looking to get into production
numbers - they just wanted to try something with somebody else, is
how it worked out.
When Timmy saw
Carmine up at the Choo-Choo Club he was in one of the other bands
that played there. Timmy liked Carmine's style and wanted to work
with him - Carmine was ready to leave... so we made the change, we
got Carmine, and from there...
me how Vanilla Fudge came about...
From there we
ended up at our old manager's club, Phil Basille's Action House in
Island Park, Long Island... to tell the truth I can't remember if we
got in there when Joey was still with us or with Carmine... I'm not
really sure. That was a turning point where everything started kind
of happening. We must have had Carmine because at that point we were
doing production numbers.
joined we put in an intensive week of rehearsal, we had to teach him
the stuff. So we went from just playing the six nights and rehearsing
at Timmy's maybe two or four times a week... we went from that to an
intensive week at a bar in Bayonne, New Jersey, that Mark's father
knew... Mark's father is the one that talked to... uh... well, let me backtrack:
When we played at
the Choo-Choo Club we used to back up groups on Tuesday nights like
the Shirelles, or the Shangri-La's... some of these different Black
girl groups would usually come in on Tuesdays like Patty LaBelle,
Little Eva... and we would back them up with chord charts and we'd
play some tunes ourselves, of course. We'd open up with some tunes,
and then they'd come up and we'd back them up. The bartender there, a
little guy, Sal, mentioned to Mark's father that this fellow from the
Action House was there to listen to one of the girl groups on one of
the Tuesdays. His name was Shelley Finkel (much later he became
Evander Holyfield's manager).
Mark's father was
very good at talking to people, so he went over to [Shelley Finkel],
sat down and started talking. He said something like "Why don't
you put the boys in the club, they're ready to go...". Whatever
it was we had enough going on the ball that the guy liked what we
were doing and decided to do that. At that point they scheduled us...
Also, let me
interject that a big group at the time were The Vagrants, making
noise in the area. They were like the biggest group in New York.
Leslie West was guitarist in that group. They were like the
quintessential Rock band in the New York area at that time among the
unknown groups. A lot of good groups, The Illusions, The Rich Kids,
The Salvation Navy, The Pilgrims, and Seven Of Us - many were kind of
like a derivative of The Rascals, I would say. Not knowing The
Rascals' history completely - who saw who first or whether everyone
just spontaneously started - The Rascals were the first group that
were known for moving along with playing and singing - doing an
exciting show, it was no longer just the band standing there singing
songs. They were performing the songs, each one differently. I'd say
The Rascals led the charge with that sound. Out of all these
different groups, The Vagrants ended up having the best stage show.
They'd have a lot of lights going besides a lot of moving, and Leslie
was a soulful singing guy who sounds very good. I thought of The
Vagrants as the Rolling Stones of the United States.
We did the Action
House and what happened is that the night we did it, The Vagrants
were supposed to be doing it. Something happened to them where they
couldn't go on because their truck broke down or something. They had
been a big draw and would get like 2,000 people out. So the house was
packed. Since they didn't show up or were late we waited longer than
usual for them. Then we were told to go on and by that time
the crowd wanted to see somebody do something, you know
what I mean?
So we were ready.
That's when we did the version of Like A Rolling Stone where I
fell down and we were all over the place. And in a place like that
where there's a lot of people, the performing just adds to the whole mood.
Right after we did
that, the manager, Phil Basille, was interested in us. But so was
Shelley Finkel, the fellow who'd found us at the Choo-Choo Club and
who worked for Phil. Now they were getting uptight at each other
because both of them wanted the group. Anyway, we had to make a
decision and we went with Phil Basille. He was the guy with the club,
the connections, and the most clout. As good as Shelley Finkel was,
sometimes you've got to make a decision that you hate to... but you
have to. So when we went with Phil who owned it, we got to play in
the Action House pretty often, at least once a week.
did Shadow Morton see the Pigeons, and what happened when he did?
As far as when
Shadow came to the club, that was later on because, as I remember, we
were already involved with Phil as manager. When Shadow came in I
remember vaguely that he was there, that he was a producer, and
such... but it wasn't... again, we had the attitude that we were
running the show. We were putting out this heavy-duty music and heavy
harmonies, we were into the performing and the lights, the emotions
and the dynamics. So everything else was like secondary. So the fact
that a producer was there that night didn't make a big impression on me.
everybody who came to see the group play at that time - not to sound
like a big deal or anything - but everybody was pretty much blown
away by what the group was doing anyhow. So that was kind of the
normal course of events. So here's another guy (Shadow) who's also
blown away, but this one happens to be in the business and he's a
producer... you know what I mean? It was like okay, that's what we're
here for anyway and that's what we tried to do all the time.
This was always
our attitude anytime we did concerts with anyone. I still have that
attitude though I can't always exercise it. Some gigs you have to
stick to the program, and keep a low profile, but if it's my gig - if
it's something I'm doing - usually that's still my attitude... get up
and blow the walls out. If not with volume then with something. The
idea is that you want to create an event.
In our case with
Vanilla Fudge, we would get up and that's it, let's go for it, and no
holds barred. And, uh, it worked out to our favor... evidently. [laughs]
I do remember that
Shadow was very enthusiastic... but the main thing I remember was
after that when we got into the studio and did the recording. We did
the mono version of You Keep Me Hangin' On, which he loved and
put that same recording on our first album, Vanilla Fudge, as
a mono version.