Vanilla Fudge was one of the first American groups to infuse psychedelia into a heavy rock sound to create “psychedelic symphonic rock” an eclectic genre which would, among its many offshoots, eventually morph into heavy metal. Although, at first, the band did not record original material, they were best known for their dramatic heavy, slowed-down arrangements of contemporary pop songs which they developed into works of epic proportion.
Originally, Vanilla Fudge was a blue-eyed soul cover band called The Pigeons, formed in New Jersey in 1965 with organist, Mark Stein, bassist, Tim Bogert and drummer, Joey Brennan, and guitarist, vocalist and US Navy veteran, Vince Martell. They built a following by gigging extensively up and down the East Coast, and earned extra money by providing freelance in-concert backing for hit-record girl groups. In early 1966, the group recorded a set of eight demos that were released several years later as “While the World Was Eating Vanilla Fudge.”
The East Coast, in particular, New York, and New Jersey, created a sound all its own. Inspired by groups such as The Rascals and The Vagrants( fronted by guitarist, Leslie West of “Mountain” fame), The Pigeons reworked many of their own existing arrangements of covers to reflect their unique interpretation of this “East Coast Sound.” In late 1966, drummer, Joey Brennan, moved out to the West Coast; the Pigeons immediately drafted drummer and vocalist, Carmine Appice, a disciple of the renowned Joe Morello (Dave Brubeck Band) and a seasoned veteran of the club scene.
In early 1967, The Pigeons manager, Phil Basile, convinced producer, George “Shadow” Morton (producer for The Shangri-Las and Janis Ian), to catch their live act. Impressed by their heavy-rocking, trippy and psychedelic version of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Morton offered to record the song as a single. This resulted in a deal with the Atlantic subsidiary Atco, which requested a name change. The band settled on Vanilla Fudge; they were a white group singing and playing with the soul of the brothers.
The band toured extensively behind its covers-heavy, jam-oriented debut album, Vanilla Fudge, to expand their fan base. Vanilla Fudge, the album, was released on June 2, 1967 the day after The Beatles’ released their Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Vanilla Fudge first album rose up the charts to # 4 without the aid of a big hit single.
In 1968, Vanilla Fudge headlined the Fillmore West with Steve Miller. The group then performed “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and released their second album, “The Beat Goes On.” Despite its avant-garde conceptualization and execution, the LP was a hit and climbed into the Top Twenty. That summer, Atco reissued “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and the second time around it climbed into the Top Ten. It was followed by Renaissance, one of Vanilla Fudge’s best albums, which also hit the Top Twenty.
The band had three albums in the Top One Hundred, two of which were in the Top Twenty and one in the Top Five Single. The band toured with Jimi Hendrix, played dates equal billed or headlined with groups such as Cream, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, among many others; late in the year, they toured with the fledgling Led Zeppelin as their opening act.
In 1969, while immersed in extensive touring, Atco released the expansive, symphonic-tinged record, Near the Beginning. Among the group’s many TV appearances on legendary shows were Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin Show, David Frost, Where The Action Is among others. The group did a TV commercial for Braniff Air, and also recorded a radio commercial for Coca Cola with guitarist Jeff Beck, a fill-in for Vince who was unable to be there that day. This event gave rise to the eventual creation of a Cream-styled power trio featuring Beck, Bogert and Appice. Exhausted by the constant touring, the Vanilla Fudge decided that their late 1969 European tour would be their last. Following the release of their final album, Rock & Roll, they played a few U.S. farewell dates and disbanded in early 1970.
Bogert and Appice first formed the hard rock group Cactus, and then later joined up with Jeff Beck to form Beck, Bogert & Appice. Appice went on to become an active session and touring musician, working with a variety of rock and hard rock artists.
Mark Stein formed Boomerang and went on to tour and recorded with The Tommy Bolin Band (Deep Purple), Dave Mason and Alice Cooper. Mark also hooked up with Madison Avenue ad agencies and sang on TV & Radio commercials for a while and had a Budweiser commercial featured on the Super Bowl. Vince continued to perform, record, teach and host his own radio shows in the tri-state New York area.
In 1995, Vince’s guitar work on the intro to “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was rated the number four heaviest guitar riff of all time in classic rock by Guitar Magazine. Tim’s unique combination of melodic ingenuity, and gutsy roaring speed, brought new dimensions to the role of the electric bass player. Tim went on to become a milestone teacher at Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles and he is considered a bass legend.
Vanilla Fudge reunited in 1984 and recorded a new album, Mystery, which also had Jeff Beck as a guest artist. In the summer of 2006, the original Vanilla Fudge reunited to tour with The Doors of the 21st Century; it culminated in a VH-1 special, “Decades of Rock.” The group currently continues to tour in the USA. In August of 2007, they performed at Radio City Music Hall with Deep Purple another opening act for the Fudge in the sixties. Critics praised the Vanilla Fudge’s performance that night as one of their greatest!
On October 15, 2006, Vanilla Fudge were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame by Felix Cavaliere for their contribution to music history. Other inductees were Billy Joel, Joan Jett, and Twisted Sister to name a few. Also in 2006 they recorded a tribute to their old friends Led Zeppelin by creating their own interpretations of their music on their CD, “Out Through The In Door.”
Citing continuing health issues resulting from a severe motorcycle accident some years earlier, Tim Bogert retired from touring in 2010. Pete Bremy, who played bass for Vince Martell’s solo project and subbed for Tim many times since 2002, took over for him. They performed on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon NBC TV show on March 28, 2011, and released their most recent album, Spirit of ’67 in 2015.
The band just returned from The Moody Blues Cruise out of Miami, Florida with 16 other bands, a great time was had by all.
Vanilla Fudge will be celebrating their 50th year Anniversary in 2017 and is still rocking the world in 2016 with concerts in the USA and European tours performing at festivals, theaters, and TV appearances on The Jimmy Fallon TV Show. The newest CD on Cleopatra Records “Sprit of 67″, Vanilla Fudge was released in 2016; ready to Rock the world in 2016!!