This bona fide rock legend tells about his days with Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck, BIT and more!
Tim Bogert is one of rock music’s bass pioneers. Born in New York City, Tim was a founding member of the ’60s super group Vanilla Fudge, as well as Cactus and Beck, Bogert & Appice. He was a faculty member of the Musicians Institute’s BIT (Bass Institute of Technology) and VIT (Vocal Institute of Technology) for eighteen years, after which he retired to relax a little, work on (and ride) his Harleys and pursue other musical endeavors. Tim has since performed with Rod Stewart, Billy Cobham, Steve Perry, Bobby & the Midnights, Rick Derringer, Ronnie Laws, Boxer, Ginger Baker and many other world-class players and bands. He is an inductee to the Hollywood Rock Hall of Fame.
FBPO: Talk a little about your musical upbringing. You seemed to have taken a roundabout route to the bass, via piano, clarinet and saxophone, not to mention your experience as a vocalist. How did you end up with the bass as your main instrument?
TB: My Mom sent me to piano lessons when I was a kid. I don’t remember how old I was but I still had my little kid’s bike. I did lessons for a while and hated every moment of it – probably why I don’t remember much. My Mom enrolled me in music lessons in the 7th grade. See, it’s all her fault! I started on clarinet and squeeked on for the next year or so till I ran into Dale Strover. He had a band and clarinet just won’t do, so I picked up the sax. I played in the band for a while, just around the time surf music was getting popular. Some of the songs had no sax, so I started doubling on bass rather than standing around. After high school, I started playing the local bars with different bands, and bass and singing became full time, no more sax.
FBPO: How did you hook up with Mark (Stein), Vince (Martell) and Carmen (Appice)? How did Vanilla Fudge come to be?
TB: I met Mark in Rick Martin And The Showman, a lounge band I played with for a few years around 1965-66. Mark the drummer, Joe Brennan and I left and formed The Pigeons. We needed a guitar player and Vinny appeared at rehearsal on day. We got Carmine about 6 months later. Ta Da!
FBPO: Where did the name “Vanilla Fudge” come from?
TB: We had just gotten a recording contract from Atlantic Records and the name Pigeons was taken, so in a couple of hours we had to think of a new name. Mark’s cousin’s nick name was vanilla fudge – no, I don’t know why – and this name was picked and agreed to by everyone. It had nothing to do with blue-eyed soul!
FBPO: Did you realize at the time that you were among rock music’s pioneers, or were you just going about your business as a hard-working band member?
TB: I was just gigging and trying to make a living in this crazy business.
FBPO: How did you hook up with Jeff Beck?
TB: The Fudge was recording a Coke commercial and Vinny got ill and went home. No guitar player! Our roadie, Bruce Wayne – no relation to Batman – had been Jeff’s roadie and said he was in town. He called him up and Jeff came over and recorded the tracks.
FBPO: Your tenure at the Musicians Institute (BIT and VIT) was long and well-known. What made you want to become an educator?
TB: It was an opportunity that came out of the blue. I had just come back from working in Europe and BIT called and asked if I would come down and explain how I had done the Cactus bass parts. I said okay, came down to the school, showed the class how I had done the tracks, had a really good time. Then I was asked to do another class for the whole bass school. This time, I had a better idea of what I was doing, so I knocked out the powers that be and they asked me to work there one day a week. Good deal! I also taught singing to most of my bass players because if you have two men who play well, but one of them sings, the singer will probably get the job. The other students wanted vocal lessons too, so one day turned into two, and it got so popular that two days turned into three, and then they started VIT.
FBPO: All bass players will claim that locking in with the drummer is crucial and that it’s what they do best. It is also said that you’re more sensitive to that need than most other bass players, that you have a knack for sensing the drums as a whole instrument, rather than, say, just synchronizing with the kick drum. As a bass player, tell me about your approach to laying down a groove along with the drummer.
TB: I simply play what I hear in my head. It helps to be ADD!
FBPO: What was it like getting together with the original Vanilla Fudge guys for that reunion concert at Radio City Music Hall in 2007? Did it feel like you picked up right where you left off?
TB: We had done a tour in 2005, and all the same egos and games reappeared. Big drag! But through it all, we played well.
FBPO: I had had the feeling you’d all remained friends after all these years, too. Not so?
TB: No. Carmine and Mark don’t speak and I’ve asked to be left alone.
FBPO: What’s next for Tim Bogert? What can we look forward to that we haven’t seen or heard from you yet?
TB: I’m doing session work online. You send me a track and I’ll play on it as if I were there, then send the bass part back to you or your producer to mix. I also work locally in The McGrath project. Playing is still fun and I still enjoy it very much.
FBPO: One last question: Are you still riding those Harleys?
TB: Oh yeah! I have an 05 Electra Glide and an 09 V Rod Muscle. I ride all the time. In fact, I just got back from a breakfast ride!