Vince Martin

Vince Martin

Vince, you go back to the 50s, you sang “cindy oh cindy” with The Tarriers, but you were never a member of The Tarriers?
No, that’s one thing I want to definitely want to clarify, Richie Unterburger has me on the net as some kind of subordinate to Fred and The Tarriers. But, it was not alan arkin’s hit, it was my hit, alan arkin was my guitar player, and it was Martin and Neil and we both worked to together on the songs, and we had Felix and John, which was the first recording they were on.

Did you ever record doves of peace at the sessions?

No I never did that, I don’t know if he ever recorded. It may have been , it may be in can. I’ve been trying collect royalties on all the releases, that are on the net, but have not able get a bloody nickel. I haven’t been paid a nickel for the tear down the walls album. Not for tear down the walls or the Japanese releases of my solo records. Nic Venet is dead, Paul Rothchild is dead, Jac Holzman is up there,but if it wasn’t for me a lot of those things wouldn’t have happened. I spoke to Bob Steinberg but he hasn’t been able to get me any money,I spoke to warner chapel and they send me a check for 6 dollars for the last quarter, do you believe that.

That’s incredible. I would assume that if you were not there, tears in the walls would not have been made.
I was talking to john Sebastian recently and hes trying to still collect on the lovin spoonful records. We were talking about jerry jeff, and how he was able to collect for mr bojangles but jerry jeff is smart he had he has his own publishing company. John sebastian told me ‘look forward, not backwards.’ And rick danko who was my buddy till the very end, a great guy, also had trouble collecting his money. The album with fred was not an easy thing to do, fred was not always easy to deal with, I love him as a friend and he was a great singer and it all pales when you listen to the music, but I was instrumental in having that record made. It would be 4 o’clock in the afternoon and fred still hadn’t showed and holzman would come me and hassle me. I was there, I had nothing to do with fred being late, but that was the way it was for those sessions, we worked long and hard on that record, it was not an easy record to do, and I don’t want to sound like i’m beating my chest, but if it hadn’t been for me, that record would not have been done, period.

How were you signed to Elektra, did you have a manager as martin and neil?
Rothschild signed us after we did a gig at the gaslight. We were up from the grove for just a few weeks, and one night he came up to us outside and asked us if we wanted to make a record; right away Freddie says ‘uhhh’, but I said, ‘fred, we gotta make a record.’ We didn’t really have a manager but around a later period we had howard Solomon as a manager.i don’t think we ever had a contract but he was managing fred so he ended up managing me too, when we did my first album with nik venet.

How did that album come to be?
Because nik wanted me to do an album, and he wanted to get fred on tape with me, so it was in fact an attempt to get fred on tape, we were supposed to do the record together. but I did not end up singing on that record accidentally. That’s something I also want to clarify, those were sessions were always meant to be for my album. That’s when we did Long Black Veil with John Stewart that is on the compiliation.

Are you sure that the version you recorded that’s on the many sides, because I think that they but the wrong song on the comp, the one on the comp was supposedly recorded in 1963.
No. long black veil was recorded in 1969, with john stewart. I sang on it, fred sang. But it really didn’t turn out good, it was too loose, that’s why it was never used, fred’s voice and john stewarts voice really didn’t mesh well. I haven’t heard the track on the cd but long black veil was recorded in Nashville in 1969 with nik venet. Then nik venet came to my room at 2 am and said if I didn’t give him the publishing for summerwind, which he loved he would bury the album. I called Howard and he says ” its 2 am don’t worry about it.’.

Howard Solomon is on the fred neil board he posts all the time.
Howard Solomon?? how can I contact him? No, maybe I don’t want to contact him. He owes me from back then, he killed my second album, in 73 he I did the ‘vince martin’ album, they gave me a 30,000 dollar budget, which was very decent for that time, and I went to California with van dyke parks, clydie king, the guy from the Memphis horns. It was a really a nice album,very well recorded. I went back to Miami and the album came out it started getting airplay, and capitol was gonna pick up my option. Then Howard, calls up Capitol and tells them he owns all the copyrights to all the tunes-capitol called my attorney. George Gold, whos passed away, gets a call from capitol telling them they were not going to get involved in all that litigation and dropped my option.

Were you ever involved in bagamin music?
Bagimin music?? That was freddies and howards publishing company, I never had anything to do with it. Look at the the Elektra record, toy balloon was published I think by nina music, who was holzmans wife

How about the second record?
No. I was never involved with bagimin music, never. The solo records were vince martin. I never had anything to do with bagimin music.

You never ended up with bagimin music?
What? No, if had bagimin music, I would not have to be working as hard as I am. I don’t know anything about Bagimin Music.

What about freds and his managers, did he have as much trouble with them as reported?
Bob steinberg had to wrestle the publishing back from them. I found out that the people in the music business, the publishers, the producers had nothing to offer except money, and we as hungry musicians, except like people like Peter yarrow and mary and albert grossman, were left with nothing.thats why danko died without money, he was great guy and a great musician. A wonderful guy, first guy I saw play a fretless bass.

Danko was a great guy, you did some dolphin project shows together, what do you remember about those shows?
Ric o’barry lived next door to me on Bayhomes drive. He used to come to my home and tell me that money was needed for the dolphin project and I would get on the phone and get it done. Ric didn’t have a phone at the time and neither did fred. Fred wouldn’t call anyone on the phone. It was me and ric and fred at my house with bobby allen, Charlie brown, allan cohen, sitting down at my place and calling everyone I know. Then i’d put Freddie on the phone, and that was how it was done.

Do you recall the dates of dolphin project shows, where fred performed? I think that one was in 1976 but the other one I think was earlier.
The last one was in 1976, the other was a few years before that, maybe 72 around that time. Those concerts were absolutely fantastic. I remember we tried getting dr john to do one but he wouldn’t do it.

Back to the 69 sessions in Nashville for your first album, how did fred end up there?
In 69 they just wanted to see if fred would record with record with me, without me, and he mostly sat in the control room making faces because he didn’t like the jams I was doing. Those musicians had just finished the Nashville skyline album and they were cooking. They had been playing with john stewart and they couldn’t cook because stewart was a very stiff singer, so when we got together, they were really cooking, they wouldn’t stop, that’s why they jasmine goes on and on,they wouldn’t let me stop. The only thing they got out of freddy was that will the circle be unbroken and that mississippi train song which for freddy was junk.

Why was it the fred wouldn’t record?

He could be stubborn at times. When it came to the music there was a strange retinence in him, I don’t know what to call it, insecurity, fear, paranoia, I don’t know what to call it.

Was it always the same, in the early sixties he seemed to perform regularly on the circuit?
In the early days he would perform under duress, but it was never too pleasant.. We had great times performing but to get him to perform regularly was impossible. Our second album was going to be live at the bitter end with the bitter end singers, it was a week that we were doing for the live album. Fred broke a string and walked offstage because he didn’t have 12 strings, felix pappalardi went backstage and picked up freddy and tells him if he ever did that again he was going to kick he has. Fred disappeared into the village, vanished, couldn’t find him. I had to finish up the week with the bitter end singers and john and felix and that was it. When he finally reappeared he did the bleeker and mcdougal album.

Rothchild signed you and fred to Elektra?
We were working at the gaslight with mississippi john hurt and one night, and Rothschild asked outside and offerend us five hundred dollars a piece to record. Fred didn’t want to do it, fred had royalties coming in from candyman, but I needed the money.

Was fred living off the royalties from candyman?

Yes, he had royalties from candyman, he had royalties coming in from this and that. Let me tell you about fred, he was very cagey, he was very cagey about his money, but he was not stupid. He would ask you to loan him 100 dollars and he had 100,000 dollars in the bank.

Where did you meet Fred?
I met fred at the third side which was Charlie washburns coffeehouse on bleeker street,I was sitting there playing guitar with hoyt axton, a cold winter night, when dino valenti came in, and then freddy came in. dino introduced me to fred that night. We jammed all night long and that was how it began. Freddy asked me ‘how come you can you play like that, where you from?’ and I said Brooklyn and he said ‘bullshit’. That was how I met fred. I was already living in the grove back then, I moved there in 1961, and fred came to visit me. Fred got to the grove in 1962, he came to visit me, we went sailing, I taught fred sailing. I remember he asking me where coconut grove was and I said florida , and when we went saling he jumped in the water and swam like a fish! I said where you from, because I thought he was a brill building songwriter, in fact that’s what he was, and he said ‘st peter beach’ and I said ‘well, ill be,you sob.’

Fred was born in ohio….
I don’t know about that, that may be , but he was from st pete beach. Neil was the grandmothers name. his grandmother was from Alabama. We used to visit them , this mother and grandmother all the time, go weekends up to st pete beach. His grandmother would cook us chicken dumplings and we used to go to the old black Baptist church to sing all the time. We had great times.

What about stories of fred leaving home when he was 13 years old?
No, I don’t thinks that was true, fred was in the navy. He signed up when he was real young, 16-17 years old. His mother had photos of him in his blues, always looking down, whenever they tried to take his photo hed look down. His mothers name was lura and his father was a jukebox distributor, he picked up the music naturally, just like I and many others picked it up.

Do you recall fred ever playing at sun studios or living in Memphis?
Freddy???? No, no, those stories are apocryphal stories at best. He didn’t even tell those stories. He pretty much went from st pete to nyc, he hung at the village and worked at the brill building, a struggling writer. You have to remember I had a hit with cindy o cindy in 1957, I was the first star all those people knew, I was making 3000 dollars a week in ’58, ’59, I had a car, a lincoln, its all gotten skewed over the years.

You were really really a lot better known that fred back in 62-63.
not to gainsay but that’s true. I was very well known for cindy o cindy, and I up until 1965-66 I could make 300-400 a week anywere, very decent money then, on the strength of that song. When we got signed by rothchild, that song played a part, if you read the liner notes to tear down the walls, cindy o cindy plays a prominent part.

How about bob Gibson, was he friends with you?
Bob Gibson was a mentor to fred and I, on the 12 string guitar, say what you may about him, but he was a wonderful musician. He is the guy that got me and fred into the 12 string, before he died, you know he killed himself, I called him and when he picked up the phone I sang ‘all the times are gone’ and he said ‘VINNY”, and I said have a good trip and take care of yourself. Very influential, camp and Gibson and me and freddy I think were the best vocal groups of the 60’s. we used to do baskets at the café wha, with Gibson, camp, freddy, richie ,me, neal stookey, peter yarrow, dino Valenti.

How about dino valenti?
He was a mysterious guy, he was this guy who was a carny and a circus guy.

Do you believe those stories? I think they are bs.
So do I, I thought he was just a singer and a writer. He was a balls to the wall singer, he still has a following his days with the quicksilver messenger service. With an audience you either, excite them or move them. You can only move them for so long, then they want to move to something else. That’s what dino and me and fred would do, we would move the and excite them at the same time. When we did linin track and weary blues we would be cooking.

It was a great song, great version
It was great. Great song.

Morning dew, anther great number.
That was great, that was my choice, I had to fight to get that song on the album, rothchild didn’t want it. we worked very hard on that record, the only song I didn’t want was freddies, ‘I got em’, because I didn’t think it was a complete song, it was a just a thought, and lonesome valley which was on the record because we needed one more song. Rothchild was very difficult to deal with, he wanted it to sound his way.

Did you remain in contact with fred since you left the grove??
He became very very reclusive. The last time I spoke with him was over the phone around 1985, nobody knew, nobody played with him while he was down in summerland key. He was listed there under his navy nickname, that’s how I knew it was him when the sheriff called me.

Why did they call you?
They found my number in his place, and they called me, then I called joe marra and ric obarry. A few years before I had seen jerry jeff walker in ny and he told me that fred had called and asked him about my back. I told jerry jeff to have him call me, that I didn’t want him to sing but he never did. Jerry jeff hadn’t seen him in 12-13 years since he went to keys. Nobody saw him while he was down there, he was hiding from the world.

So he actually never saw his old friends in the keys?

No, nobody knew where he was, he was hiding from the world. When I played down there at the with mike taylor he was in summerland key, but nobody knew. He had his personal demons that made him retreat from everyone. The story is that he was hiding from this one of the other one, but the fact is that he it was an emotional thing, drugs had nothing to do with it, fred really had not done drugs for a long long time, and even when he did it was a by product of whatever pains he had in his life. Its very complicated.

Fred moved to Woodstock to record in the sixties, did you ever play him with up there?
No, fred moved to Woodstock because he married a lady who lived up there, who worked at the Purple elephant. A very nice lady. Fred was lucky in the wives he had, they were all very loyal to him, never did they say one bad word about him, he was very lucky. She lived up there so he moved to upstate new york.

I know both you and fred must have know Dylan, what was the fred relationship?
Well fred was very feisty, very feisty, he didn’t have a kind word to say about anyone, not even Dylan. But that was the way fred was. Dylan and joan baez used to come in to catch out set at the gaslight, fred would make some smart comment, the audience would think it was funny repartee but it was real, it was real. Those were magical times. I remember kris Kristofferson teaching me Sunday morning coming down on the front steps of his house and he wanted me to record it but the publisher wouldn’t have it, they were saving it for john cash. Kristofferson is one of the good guys one of the real nice guys.

What are your thoughts on nic venet?
I used him like he used me. I needed to work and he needed to make an album. Do you know that I found out when I went to California in 1973 he charged the album to Apple prodctions, it was a write off. I saw the work orders, he was working on his own with Apple productions, he had points, he was a shrewd guy.

How about Rothchild?
I think what he said about fred in the holzman book was out of line. He also said that the first album he produced was Bleeker and macdougal, but the first album he produced was tear down the walls.

How about dade county jail, one of my favorites?
I helped fred write that, at the coffeehouse in Douglas road. We sang it for claude pepper at a campaign benefit in Key Biscayne, we were surrounded by state troopers while we sang it.

Fred agreed to do it?

Yes he did it, he would say, ‘we shouldn’t do it, we can get in trouble’, so I said, don’t worry about it, and he did it.

Was that filmed, I heard that you did a televison special down in Miami, do you remember for who? Public tv?
Yes I did, it was for abc tv, it was for steve Fleishmann, it was called ‘mission impossible: ‘care for the land’ and it was beautiful, I wrote the theme and it was played by Bethlehem asylum..

How about a film of just you playing at the coffeehouse?

Im sure I did, but I don’t remember, I did a lot of things.

Is the name joe tinker lewis familiar?
Sure, he was a blues guy from Chicago. I met him up there, he taught fred ‘please send me someone to love.’ I remember him teaching Fred that song.

How about Karen Dalton?
Oh yeah, sure. I loved her, but she was very self destructive and very self defeating even to the very end, when she died of aids. She was very negative about music and about life, but she did leave me something -before she died, im told one of last things she said was ‘tell vince to keep singing.’ Fred adored her, but of course some of that had to do with drugs, they were drug buddies back then. But she was hurt by fred, fred promised to produce her and never did. Fred was too busy doing nothing, and never did. He promised to produce herb metoyer and never did. When it came to business, fred was very difficult to deal with, very difficult. I remember in 1966, no, it wasn’t 1966, it was 1971, and Johnny cash wanted us to open for him at the felt forum, just do 20-30 minutes for a big chunk of money, and he wouldn’t do it. would not do it. I begged him, my wife begged him but he wouldn’t do it. that was one of the times I was really upset with him.

Why wouldn’t he, why the total reluctance?
He would not perform, he just would not do it. would not do it. when it came to business he wouldn’t do it. when I would visit his mother and grandmother in st pete, her grandmother loved the music, we would go sing gospel songs in the black Baptist church and had a great time, but when it came to performing professionally it was impossible. I think some had to do with his very southern backround, being difficult.

So fred was a southern boy?
Fred?? Totally, he would put butter on his pot roast. Absolutely and totally.

Did you have anything to do with the record he did in bayshore in the 70s?

no, I had nothing to do with that, that was some rope-a-dope thing they did down there with Michael lang that I had nothing to do with.

Did you go to japan for the dolphin project shows?
Yes that was great, we had a great time, and it was recorded, Ive asked ric obarry about those tapes but he says greenpeace cant find them, but someone has to have, and there were many great artists at those shows and it would be great to have them released.

It would be great that the grove shows come out, but supposedly fred destroyed the tapes, which I kind of doubt.
I doubt that very seriously, ric would never allow that to happen, someone has to have them. Those were magical shows! I sang my ass off at those shows. Someone has to have, of course who knows in what state the tapes would be. Danko, buffet, Andersen, look what was on that stage! I would tell ric, you have to release this stuff. Michael lang maybe has them.

Lang managed fred later, but I believe they had a falling out.
At the time fred would have total denial of some of the things he did back then, he was a very complicated man. He did a lot of great music. The story now is that the dolphin project shows were fred, but we were all part of it, we all had a big part in the shows. Danko was a big part of those shows. There was a lot of people involved, fred was a passive artist at that time. I promoted, ric promoted it, Charlie promoted, we had to get the playhouse, I did a lot of work, we all did, fred cared about the dolphins but fred was a passive artist during that period, fred would never do any of that, or make all those phone calls.

Anything you would like to add?
Id like to know where all the royalties are going, tear down the walls has been reissued three times and my solo records have been released in japan and ive seen nothing from that. Id like to know where all the money is.

Henry Llach
January 2003

Photo: Vince Martin – Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY – December 2008 (by Riny van Eijk)