Interview by Danny Coleman

When talking with Vanilla Fudge’s guitarist, Vince “Vinny” Martell, it is impossible to not get a sense of nostalgia nor feel the pride that this man has for his instrument and his accomplishments whether it be his service to our country as a member of the U.S. Navy, the impact that “Fudge” had on the rock music world, his charitable undertakings or the many festivals and countries in which he appeared in. The man that, the now departed Doors keyboard legend Ray Manzarek, once said “A more soulful shredder may not exist in all of classic rock” is definitely still very much a viable force to reckon with in rock ‘n’ roll music today.

Yes, the man who was once told by Jimi Hendrix, “Contact me if the Fudge ever brakes up,” is still going strong into his sixth decade of making music and currently prepping for an upcoming, February 28, 2014 ,appearance at the Havana in New Hope, PA. “The first set will be acoustic with Peg Perl and I. The second set will be heavy electric, we’ll bring up the band and rock the place out,” said a seemingly excited Martell.

Rising to fame in the late ’60’s as a member of the aforementioned ,Vanilla Fudge, Martell has left and continues to leave an indelible mark on rock ‘n’ roll as well as with the musicians that he comes across. However, he is well aware that the music industry, the players, and the times in general have changed to the point where the creativity and the final product possibly suffer. “It’s a different dynamic today,” he explained as an air of caution crept into his voice. “Things are different with agents ya’ know? Today it’s more dollars and cents, there’s business people running the show, not the creative people anymore. Years ago, radio live performances were the big deal, it was the way things went; now it’s all studio production and video, things that bands can’t reproduce live. In Vanilla Fudge we never overdubbed anything because we wanted to be able to do it live.”

Continuing on, I asked Vinny to elaborate a bit on his storied past, as well as the band’s tenure as one of the top drawing acts of their time; his response was without hesitation. “Well, initially, from the start it was wonderful! I mean, we did nineteen dates with Hendrix, we got on tours together; it was tremendous!, we hung out just talking with Jimi. One night Eddie Kramer says to us around 4 a.m., well, he invited us to go over to The Record Plant and record a few things. So we went down and recorded some jams, Jimi and I together on tape, I’m sure that it’s floating around somewhere, I wish I knew where.”

One would think that an evening like that would be hard to top if ranking memories, but once pushed, Martell was more than happy to oblige my thirst for more. “I don’t know if I have a favorite memory to tell the truth; I mean Hendrix was tremendous. Oh I know, there was this one night at the Red Rocks in Colorado, the outdoor gigs were always my favorite, Red Rocks is just a mind blowing place. It’s this beautiful setting where the stage is set at the bottom and the seats just rise up, well it’s really special. I remember we broke into Hendrix’s “Season Of the Witch.” The sky and the clouds all came together and it was a magical night. Funny thing is we had passed on an opportunity to play Woodstock, our manager didn’t think it would be a good idea (he laughs); well, we know how that turned out.”

Vanilla Fudge aided the careers of several well known bands and Martell in particular has influenced many a player over his time wielding an axe. “We were on the Ed Sullivan Show twice,” says Martell. “We were also on with David Frost and Mike Douglas, we made the rounds. We shared shows with The Who and B.B. King. We did a show at The Spectrum in Philly with Janis Joplin, she was great, that was a good night.” I asked him about Led Zeppelin, what it was like dealing with a band who at the time were the brash, young, up and comers; he quickly responded. “They wanted to make some noise. We’d known Jimmy Page from his days with The Yardbirds so we had a great camaraderie with them. We did a bunch of gigs with them opening, they’re a great bunch of guys.”

Martell went on to mention several shows and documentaries that he is especially glad to have been a part of; one is “Love In – A Musical Celebration” and the other is about the tumultuous days behind The Iron Curtain called “Rockin’ The Wall.” “Love In” was hosted by Ben Vereen, it had me, Peg, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Buddy Miles, and gosh so many others. They flew Peg and I out to the west coast for a four day production for a two hour show; it’s on PBS if you want to look it up.”

“Rockin’ The Wall,” I was involved and let me tell you, it was intense,” he stated as his voice became very serious, as if warning me about history repeating itself if not careful. “I was involved, Stein, and Robby Kreiger of the Doors; it was all about the horrible things going on behind that wall in Germany. There was no rock ‘n’ roll allowed, it was considered evil because it was western influence. Radio Free Europe, Vanilla Fudge, we were played behind the curtain, we were considered bad influences. One of the stories in this documentary is that of kids who were asked by their school teachers if they watched The Beatles on TV the night before; some of the teachers were working for the government and were loyal so they tricked the kids into a show of hands. The ones who admitted watching the show, well, their parents disappeared courtesy of their government; it was some sad stuff. I was in the Navy during the Cuban Crisis but I never had to deal with anything like that.”vince2

Drawing from his military background, Vinny now lends his time to several veteran’s charities. “I raise money for them,” he told me. “I’m involved in a few like “Three Hots and A Cot” and “VetAid National” which help homeless vets and some other charities too.”

A busy schedule seems to have no effect on Martell as I was impressed with his enthusiasm over the upcoming Vince Martell Band show at Havana and the Vanilla Fudge tour of Europe that follows nearly immediately after his New Hope appearance. “Hippy Fest! St. John Terrell’s Music in Magic Mountain,” I played there in 1968 with Vanilla Fudge. Recently I did a thing at The Bucks County Playhouse which is right down the street from Havana. I love the area, great atmosphere, neat town; it’s going to be a great show!.” “You know, before I was in Vanilla Fudge, I was in a band called The Pigeons. We did one album and they (the record label) never released it until Vanilla Fudge took off, then they let it loose. My band for the Havana show features Peg Pearl on vocals, Pete Bremy, myself and Joe D’Angelo on drums. Like I said, it’s just Peg and I doing an acoustic first set then we’ll rock it out for the second set. I’m ready; it will be a great night.”

After Havana, Vanilla Fudge will be spending the month of March in Europe with stops in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy before returning home to the U.S. Three of the long time members will be taking part in the European tour, Martell, Mark Stein, and drummer Carmine Appice as well as Pete Bremy. Tim Bogart has retired from music and currently resides on the west coast.

When the topic of a new CD in the works for either The Vince Martell Band or Vanilla Fudge was broached; Martell was somewhat elusive. “We (Vanilla Fudge) did a Zeppelin tribute album back in ’06 called “Out Through The In Door.” That was a lot of fun. Yeah, yeah, we have something in the works but we’re keeping it under wraps for now. When we get back from Europe we will start that…”

So as you can see, Martell has no intentions of slowing down any time soon. Two bands, a tour, recording, and possibly resurrecting two radio shows which are currently “on hiatus” due to time constraints will keep Vinny a busy man. So catch him along with Hamilton area drummer Joe D’Angelo while you can at Havana on Main Street, in New Hope, PA. Tickets are only $15 in advance. For tickets and more info on Vince Martell see links below. 





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