Over time, Martell stepped into the limelight
and also contributed to the band’s sophis-
ticated arrangements. During the Fudge’s
’60s heyday, Martell played Gibson guitars—
ES-335s, SGs, a big archtop L- 5, and several
Les Pauls, including a TV yellow Junior. For
amps, Martell gigged with Magnatone,
Fender, Standel, Kustom, Traynor, and Sunn
models before settling on Marshall stacks.
and challenged the stranglehold that British
groups had on the charts at the time.
Yanovsky was an accomplished guitarist who
could handle straight blues, raucous rock,
sensitive chord work, country licks, and much
more. He played for the song and delivered
exactly what was necessary to make each
one work. Yanovsky was also one of the very
few guitarists who played the Gumby-shaped
Guild S- 200 Thunderbird solidbody. He had
two—one with a sunburst finish and another
with custom purple paint—which he played
through Standel amplifiers.
Vinny Martell onstage in April 2010 with his ’ 82 Les Paul
Black Beauty. Photo by Bob Cianci
As the lead guitarist in Vanilla Fudge, Vinny
Martell electrified rock fans in the summer
of 1967 with a dramatic, slowed-down version of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’
On”—a track many feel bridged the gap
between psychedelia and heavy metal.
After a drug bust in 1967, Yanovsky left the
Spoonful and recorded his only solo album, the
now collectible Alive and Well in Argentina,
on which he sang and played most of the
instruments. He returned home to Kingston,
Ontario, where he opened a restaurant, Chez
Piggy, followed by the Pan Chancho bakery.
Both ventures were highly successful.
Martell, who was born in the Bronx, New
York, joined the US Navy as a young man,
and after his stint there he went on to play
in bands in Florida before returning to New
York. There, he formed a band called the
Pigeons with Hammond B- 3 organist and
singer Mark Stein, bassist Tim Bogert, and
drummer Joey Brennan. When the hard-rocking Carmine Appice replaced Brennan on
drums, Vanilla Fudge was born. The quartet
recorded five albums that consisted mostly
of highly rearranged cover material. Their
daring mix of soul, rock, and classical music
influenced such bands as Deep Purple, Yes,
and Led Zeppelin.
The Fudge split up in 1970, but since the
’90s they’ve regrouped many times for short
tours, occasionally with all the original mem-
bers. Martell also works local gigs with his
own band. He currently plays an ’ 82 Les Paul
Black Beauty, a Floyd Rose-equipped Kramer
with a custom flame paint job, and several
ESP guitars through Mesa/Boogie amplifi-
cation. “ESP has been great to me,” says
Martell. “When I go out on tour, I only bring
two guitars—a red ESP that looks like a Les
Paul and my Kramer.”
When the Lovin’ Spoonful were inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, it was
the last time all four original members would
be reunited. During the end-of-festivities jam,
Yanovsky took a solo on his battered S- 200
that proved he had lost none of his youthful
fire and drew smiles from Eric Clapton, an
admitted fan, who was sharing the stage.
Vanilla Fudge’s progressive vision is documented in a four-disc box set from Rhino
Records called Box of Fudge.
Initially, Vanilla Fudge’s music was dominated
by Stein’s B- 3. It wasn’t until the band’s
fourth album, 1969’s Near the Beginning,
that Martell came into his own as a guitarist.
His playing on Beginning was punctuated by
slashing chord work and impassioned blues-based solos that included the occasional
Middle Eastern twist. Stein, Bogert, and
Appice were powerful players and singers,
so at first Martell’s role was to provide a
musical foundation for the group. His band-mates also relied on him for moral support.
“I was the spiritual guy in the group that
held it all together,” says Martell. “I was the
calm one who kept things cool. I think we
would have splintered any number of times
without my influence.”
One of the great characters of ’60s rock,
Zal Yanovsky held the lead-guitar spot with
the Lovin’ Spoonful for most of the group’s
existence and played on all their hits, including “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t
Have to Be So Nice,” “Summer in the City,”
“Younger Girl,” and “Rain on the Roof.” An
ex-folkie, Canadian-born Yanovsky teamed
with Greenwich Village singer, songwriter,
and guitarist John Sebastian to form the
Spoonful in 1965.
Yanovsky died of congestive heart failure in
2002, but thanks to the superb music he left
behind, his legacy lives on.
The band’s good-time sound—a mixture
of rock, blues, country, folk, and jug-band
music—brought them immediate success
Gene Cornish achieved incredible success as
guitarist for the Rascals. A Canadian by birth,
Cornish was a seasoned music-business veteran by the time he joined the band in 1965,