by Kenny Kerner

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."

Vinnie began 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."

Joined TAXI:
Songs Forwarded:
Deals Made:
Vinnie Zummo
New York City
Full-Time Musician
Early 1997
None Yet
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 already has-beens."

Determined to 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 aren't."

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!


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