I met all of them the day I arrived; Mark Stein, Vince Martell and the two guys who were starting the new band, Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert.
I was amazed that I was even there. My Sugar Blues did a cool version of one of their songs, then breaks my heart by breaking up two months before and now I’m standing in the Fudge’s studio with primo musical equipment and the live flesh and blood rock VIPs that they were.
Carmine, Tim, a guitarist by the name of Terry Kelly (who had been with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) and I, all jammed a thing that I suggested “Parchman Farm” a tune off one of John Mayall and the Blues Breaker’s album. I started it off with a funky, growly harmonica and the band pounded in. The same version/jam was on the first Cactus album...for which they were kind enough to 'thank me' for on the back of the record jacket. I was listed among some rock and roll giants; 'Thanks to; Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Led Zepplin....'Mike Evans' ..among others. I guess you can't sneaze at that.
It was good, Tim and Carmine were heavy rockers, we got down….but they were not my Sugar Blues.
I guess they wanted me to front the band, naming the band after our first or second session…. Carmine named the band “Cactus.”
“Cactus” paid me $50 a week to come out to
Suddenly I was a big man on Eighty Deuce….I was playing’ with some known cats AND getting paid for it.
Carmine had told me that they were waiting for the famed English guitarist Jeff Back to join...but within a couple of weeks Beck was in a nasty auto accident in
Inside, *I was pretty blown away by this….to think I might have been singing with Beck. Jeff Beck had recently released an album called 'Truth.' It featured one of my favorite singers of the time; Rod Stewart. 'Truth' became Stewart's breakout record.
I emulated Stewart's voice as best I could at 18 years old. I think that's why 'Cactus' liked me.
About two or three years later Timmy and Carmine would get together with Jeff Beck, founding; “Beck, Bogert and Appice” for an album or two. I could never understand what Beck liked about my two former brief band mates....he had a sophistication that Timmy and Carmine could only dream of. But alas, who am I to criticize...I soon would become a 'lamplighter' on a Riker's cell block.
In the fall of ’69 as my snorting affliction with heroin progressed, Vanilla Fudge had their last gig at the Fillmore East and invited me to come. I remember Billy Stedman coming along with his guitar. I was scared, whiffing up a couple of bags of dope before arriving at The Fillmore’s stage door... helped a lot, I’d coast through it or so I thought.
In Voo-Doo, witch doctors (from what I understand) would sprinkle gris-gris on their sick patients to ostracize evil spirits. It was, I think, bone shavings from cadavers. Although, Dr. John made it very clear that his wasn’t ‘real.’
Hanging out in Fudge’s dressing room with all the hanger ons and wanna bees, I suddenly was commanding respect, I felt important, I was the new lead singer for Carmine and Timmy’s new band.
Just below the surface…I was unique…less than and couldn’t really come to terms with why I was there (in that easy serene heroin way).
Carmine had told me that at the end of the Fudge’s show, at the end of the night, they would have me come out to sing a number. I think it was Carmine who announced that a ‘couple of friends’ would come out to play a number. It didn’t help that I had just secretly puked a couple of times from heroin gluttony… I went on that stage nervous, numb and a little hopeful that I’d pull it off… feeling heroin serene and heroin sapped, I was ready as I was ever going to be.
The Fillmore was packed (as it always was) with rowdy, boisterous, very stoned, get down kids just like…… me. Billy played guitar, Tim on bass and Carmine on drums . We played “Blues Deluxe” sung by Rod Stewart off the Jeff Beck Group “Truth” album.
All I can remember from my Fillmore debut was that I kept my eyes closed through most of the song. When I opened them in the middle of a lyric, I got a big surprise. The Fillmore’s spotlight was on me and the whole rest of the stage was black…pfft…not a fellow band mate in sight. I shuddered, quickly closed my eyes and finished the song the best I knew.
There was huge raucous applause as I…. swiftly de-staged. For some reason as if I wanted to be “with my people,” I walked into the audience and became surrounded by very high, trinket giving, autograph stalking, adulating, Fudge loving…’uh… peers.
A letter from myself (forty two days from 19th birthday) to my father:
I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner but I’ve been busy at the studio. As of a year and a half I’ve been a singer and a harpist. It’s not the kind of harp in a symphony orchestra, It’s a harmonica.
I’m joining two of the members of the Vanilla Fudge. The Fudge are breaking up in about a week. They’re one of the highest paid rock bands in the nation and Jeff Beck one of the “Super” guitarists of the free world, he’s coming to meet me from
I really believe you completely underestimate the whole rock scene. To me, it sounds FAR from “All the same”. There is so much feeling and spirit it’s amazing! I know Bill Graham well and the article you sent me about Bill completely misinformed the reader. By the way, I sang and played blues harp with the Fudge at the Fillmore East two weeks ago last night for five thousand people and they really dug it!
I can’t understand why you can’t send the checks the right time or the right amount. I’ve had a hole in my tooth almost as big as the tooth and yesterday the tooth split in half. I don’t know what I’m gonna do, I can’t go to the dentist because you never paid the bill. Please believe me that everything I say is not under anybody else’s influence. I find out things for myself. I’ve read Philip’s letter and I’ve never seen him be such a damn phony.. It sickens me! He makes our money problem seem like a joke. You just don’t realize how much we depend on your checks. Ever since mom started receiving them from you, she has made the house look like a palace.! I can tell you one thing when I start making some money she won’t be sad anymore! About me joining the armed forces and playing in one of the bands…? That would be against my whole way of life and making music. Dad, there is a whole new generation out there with a vast brand new outlook and I’m proud to be part of it.! I’m not going into the service because I have bronchial asthma. I’ve met a girl named Candace and it’s very possible we will get married. Well, answer me soon. Love Michael
*I met Bill Graham that night at the Fillmore. Jeff Beck one of rocks premier guitarists of the era, who in 1967 formed the “Jeff Beck Group” with Ron Wood, introducing Rod Stewart to the world. I was told that Beck was to join our new band and was soon to arrive but was in auto accident in
My time with Cactus didn’t last very long after I decided to take one of their vans into the city to cop some dope.
One weekend night I slept over Carmine’s house when I decided that I needed to get some.
Out in back of the Fudge’s studio they kept three vans for moving their equipment… and I knew where the keys were. It didn’t matter (whatsoever) that I didn’t have a driver’s license and that I had never driven a car!!
In the middle of the night I climbed in one of the vans, took off down the Long Island Expressway…screeching, jerking and weaving my way to Eighty Deuce…. to buy me a bag of dope.
And screeching, jerking and weaving my way back.
To this day I’m amazed, completely amazed that I fulfilled this task…with “no training.” I get angst attacks just writing about it. Unbelievable.
I soon was asked not to comeback to Cactus and the Fudge’s studio…I was incredulous, calling Timmy B. from a phone booth at Eighty Deuce and Broadway, “Timmy, how could you do this?, we can straighten this all out, I promise.”
I was terminated and heartbroken….. And clueless.
I found out that they ''thanked me', after my first release from
Several years later, Rusty Day would die from a heroin overdose.
Our addiction to heroin was strong and fast, changing lives, forever.
'Cactus' with Rusty Day and Jim McCarty(formerly of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels) -middle left/right.
Tim Bogert far left, Carmine Appice far right (Appice would tour with Stewart in the 70s/80s).