The 60s had its share of psychedelic rock groups, but one of the progenitors was Vanilla Fudge, an acid-washed, groovy band of four. Mark Stein, Tim Bogert, Vince Martell and Carmine Appice made up the heavy group that transformed the Supremes’ classic, “You Keep Me Hanging On,” into a souped-up, head-banging trip to psychedelic nirvana. Bronx-born Martell was the lead guitarist for the original line-up and has been a part of various recreations of the band during the years.
Recently he spoke with dampfang.com about what he’s been up to and what he has coming up.
Examiner: What was your upbringing?
Vince Martell: I grew up in the Bronx, Italian family. My parents played music and my sister and I took music lessons at a young age. She took classical lessons. I was surrounded by so much music, I assumed everyone grew up taking lessons!
Examiner: What about your musical influences?
VM: I used to watch “Your Hit Parade” on television. Artists I saw on there were big influences. Also seeing Mary Ford and Les Paul at Radio City. That was something else.
Examiner: When did you first start performing?
VM: I used to play on a friend’s stoop. Played for local kids. My first official gig was when I was in the Navy. When I was off base, I did a lot of jamming with local bands. When I came back home, my parents moved to Florida, I joined them. I joined a band and we did the South Florida circuit, Key West, Miami, playing shrimp bars. When I came back to New York City, I ran into an agent, Sal-something. He had known of Mark Stein and Timmy Bogert. They had just gotten out of a group, Rick Martin and the Showmen, along with a drummer named Joey Brennan. Sal had heard they were looking for a guitarist, and I was a guitarist, so I gave him my card.
Examiner: What was the experience like, being a part of that original line-up of Vanilla Fudge?
VM: Oh, it was a great experience. We made tunes psychedelic and symphonic, with a lot of emotion behind them. I’d always wanted to play with a lot of emotion. I actually have a book, Vince Martell: My Life Story, coming out soon that’ll tell a lot about my time with Vanilla Fudge. It’ll include lots of great photos, too.
Examiner: What was the band’s creative process?
VM: Mark would get an idea for a tune, I’d give my input. We’d all work it out, practice.
Examiner: You now have the Vince Martell Band. How is it compared to the Fudge?
VM: Well, the Fudge was great, particularly in the early days, everyone got along real well. Then as we became a little more popular, members started becoming less receptive. Perspectives changed, egos came a little more into play. Having my own band, I have total control. Everyone supports each other, keeps things calm and progressing.
Examiner: What projects are you working on?
VM: I’m in the studio working on a project. Also have a couple of radio shows. Every Tuesday I’m on WJNC, I do a rock ‘n’ roll show. I also do “Perspectives” from 11-midnight every Monday night. It’s about people who’ve died and come back.
Examiner: What do you enjoy most about performing?
VM: I love it. I really charges me up…it’s a rush! There’s definitely a cosmic connection. Music is great in that it transcends all philosophies. We’re all one human race.
Examiner: Who would you like to perform with that you haven’t?
VM: I’d say definitely the three great Brit guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Would love to have a jam session with them!
Examiner: What’s the best jam you’ve ever had?
VM:The best jam I ever did was with Jimi Hendrix in 1968. It was at Steve Paul’s Scene in NYC …Eddie Kramer, his engineer, took us down to The Record Plant while we jammed with the tapes rolling. Jimi, always a gentleman, gave me the first solo; it was a minor blues progression. Then he joinedin and took over. Buddy Miles was there, and a host of other cool cats…Jimi said that if the Fudge ever broke up, to call him…Maybe the Hendrix-Martell Experience? That recording is sitting in some vault somewhere…Hopefully, it will be released one day!
The legendary guitarist continues to tour extensively with his band and also participates in various charity events such as Relief Aid. From the sweet heavy riffs of Vanilla Fudge to modern-day jamming, Vince Martell is the real deal. A man who treats the guitar like an extra appendage, totally in sych with the vibrations he’s creating. A master guitarist whose finely structured, heavy riffs influenced the sound of 60s and 70s rock, he’s still going strong and keeping hard rock alive.