Vanilla Fudge has been called one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal. The band's original line–up — vocalist and organist Mark Stein, bassist and vocalist Tim Bogert, lead guitarist/vocalist Vince Martell, and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice — recorded five albums during the years 1967–69, before disbanding in 1970.
Originally called The Pigeons, the band was ready to be signed by Atlantic Records in April 1967. But Ahmet Ertegun, the label's founder and legendary rock tastemaker, didn't like that name. Playing a gig at the Page 2 club on Long Island they met a woman named Dee Dee who worked there who said her grandfather used to call her Vanilla Fudge. She added, “Maybe you guys should call yourselves that—you're like white soul music”. They liked it and so did Atlantic, so Vanilla Fudge it was!
Their first album was released in August 1967 and would top out at #6 on the Billboard charts. It featured their biggest hit, a slowed-down proto-heavy metal remake of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.” This version featured Stein's psychedelic-baroque organ intro and Appice's energetic drumming. It was a Top 10 hit in the United States and a Top 20 hit in the UK in 1967.
The members of Vanilla Fudge were great admirers of the Beatles and covered several of their songs including "Ticket to Ride", "Eleanor Rigby", and "You Can't Do That". The self-titled debut album quotes "Strawberry Fields Forever" at the end, with the lines "Nothing is real; Nothing to get hung about".
According to Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord, Vanilla Fudge's organ-heavy sound was a large influence on the British band Deep Purple, with Blackmore even stating that his band wanted to be a "Vanilla Fudge clone" in its early years.
Vanilla Fudge was managed by the reputed Lucchese crime family member Phillip Basile, who operated several popular clubs in New York. When Led Zeppelin first toured the United States in early 1969, they opened for Vanilla Fudge at some shows.