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, 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.