His credits read like a who's who of rock. He has recorded
or toured with the likes of Joe Jackson, Art Garfunkel, Paul Stanley,
Shawn Colvin, Marti Jones and Paul Carrack, to name just a few. If you're
a TV buff, you most likely heard his guitar playing on commercials for
Salon Selectives, Maybelline, Diet Coke, Mounds/Almond Joy and AT&T.
So what's wrong
with this picture? Why is the TAXI Meter doing a profile of a successful,
working studio musician? Aren't we supposed to showcase up and coming,
new talent? Well, that's just the point. Vinnie Zummo wants to keep
working, and as a songwriter with a diversity of styles, TAXI is like
a breath of fresh air.
Like so many
of us, Vinnie was totally creative and kinda light on the business/political
side. Or, as he so astutely puts it, "I was never into the politics
of the business. I thought if you had a record deal, that was enough.
I didn't know you also had to work the label."
playing music when he was five years old. As he recalls, "I began by
playing the accordion but when I got old enough to figure it out, I
switched to guitar. You don't get any girls playing an accordion. The
minute I played the guitar, I fell in love with it. I've been playing
now for about 25 years."
While still a teenager, Zummo got a big break when he was enlisted as
a guitarist and singer as part of the back up band for Jay & The Americans.
"Although that gig was a real eye-opener for me," Zummo admits, "I hated
it because it felt like I was starting out my career with people who were
| Vinnie Zummo
New York City
make his own mark in the business, Zummo set out to find his musical self.
But, unlike most musicians who settle into a specific musical niche, Zummo
felt right at home doing almost anything that came his way. And he did
it all exceptionally well.
"I've been lucky
in that I've been able to taste every aspect of the business. I wrote
music for soap operas, did studio gigs, played Shakespeare in the Park
and wrote jingles. The very first jungle I wrote, which took me all of
ten minutes, ran for three solid years. It was a jingle for Mounds/Almond
Joy, where on my guitar, I portrayed chocolate that was melting. I started
playing screaming rock & roll and then got into bebop for about ten years."
With the exception
of a seven year tour of duty with Joe Jackson, Zummo's bio looks like
he just couldn't decide what to do musically. But that couldn't be farther
from the truth. "Sure, my bio looks like I played with a lot of people,
" Zummo said, "but that's because it's the nature of the music business.
You take what you can get. My weakness and strength is that I like to
do everything, but this business likes to cubbyhole musicians. That's
why this TAXI thing appealed to me." Vinnie first learned about TAXI from
stories that appeared in the Times and in Billboard. He figured that if
they took the time to write about it, then TAXI must be legit. He joined
early in 1997 and began submitting tapes immediately. Zummo was skeptical
at first and still has a few reservations: "I wish there was a way you
knew if your tape really got to the companies TAXI says it got to. I'm
sure it does, but it's just that you never hear from the companies to
know what's happening with your forwarded song."
Like so many
other songwriters, Vinnie looks to TAXI as a constant outlet for his mixed
bag of musical styles: "Seems to me that I finally have an outlet for
the many different styles of music that I write. I just sent in a polka
and French Cafe music. Because my music is such a mixed bag of styles,
it is difficult to market--especially if you're not political. I've had
a pretty good career, but these are times when you have to change and
adapt. I'm lucky that I'm making money as a musician--a lot of my friends
Being the consummate
professional, I wondered what Zummo thought about the many critiques he
received from TAXI's staff of A&R Screeners. I was surprised at his totally
honest response: "I agree with some of the critiques but my biggest complaint
is that I can't read the writing. I know it's hard to have anyone criticize
your stuff because you're always thinking that what you write is great--therwise
you wouldn't be able to write it. I think the critiques helped me focus
my submissions. I've also gotten some rave critiques which is very nice.
It's good to know that somebody likes what you're doing. I can write anything
and play anything but I've always needed someone to shop what I do. On
paper, TAXI is perfect for someone like me."
As he continues
on his solo career as a successful jack of all musical styles, Vinnie
Zummo, with a typical New York attitude, will always be a little suspicious,
a little inquisitive and a lot grateful that TAXI came along: "It's a
very peculiar thing from the submitter's point of view--you have an inter-personal
business relationship with someone you don't know and never see. And you're
trusting them with what you create. It's like going through one set of
A&R people to get to another set of A&R people. But there's no other way
you can really do this. So far, TAXI has made me focus and really write
stuff. I'm getting quite a backlog of material. I like the concept and
think it's a great idea. I'm amazed that nobody thought of it sooner."
Spoken like a true professional!