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VOL. 37 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 01, 2013

Veda's non-stop creativity in 3 languages

By Tim Ghianni

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To try to capture the business interests as well as the artistic endeavors of Gil Veda is almost impossible, as he has packed much into his almost 80 years. Much of that is detailed in the accompanying story. But here are a few other little tidbits about Veda:

  • Before launching his pop-singing career, he spent eight years in the Air Force, where he was a jet mechanic and staff sergeant. “I got quite an adventure,” he says, adding that the GI Bill helped him study business administration and opera at the University of South Carolina.
  • By the time he arrived in Nashville, he’d already been on “The Arthur Godfrey Show” (he says he was one of the last participants on that talent-search program), sang with Lonzo and Oscar at the Tobacco Festival in South Carolina and toured the country as a finger-snapping “continental” supper club singer.
  • First Hispanic singer to record at RCA Studio B. “I sang there in English, Spanish and Italian,” he says of the sessions that began there in 1963. “I recorded “O Sole Mio” in Italian and English.” Veda also recorded a Tony Martin version of a song with the same melody, “There’s No Tomorrow,” in Italian and English. Elvis later used that same melody for “It’s Now or Never.” Veda says he’s not sure if he influenced the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
  • That same year, 1963, he had an art show at the Parthenon. “That’s when I painted Al Hirt, Mayor Briley, all kinds of animals, tigers, pumas. People thought there were four different artists, but there was only one.”
  • In 1964, Veda took his continental singing to the band shell at Centennial Park, where 10,000 people watched and listened as he performed with the help of a band that included his friends Boots Randolph and Ray Stevens.
  • Performed regularly on The Noon Show with host Judd Collins back in the 1960s. “I was singing, talking about art and sometimes I even cooked on television while I sang. I cooked an Italian dinner and singing “Volare,” an Italian song.”
  • His portraits were well represented in the business world. Among his subjects, Mario Ferrari and his wife. They were in the late restaurateur’s signature establishment.
  • Painted a portrait of senatorial candidate Tex Ritter and a bullfight for Kitty Wells. Other musical clients included Bobby Goldsboro (as a Viking) for the singer’s Viking Publishing Company. Did a portrait of Hank Snow, Mel Tillis and four of Johnny Cash.
  • Lived in 1962 at the Cabana Apartments – “The fanciest place in Nashville back then, “ he says, adding that he paid his rent with paintings.
  • Moved his studio in 1963 to 16th Avenue South, where he also opened an art gallery. “It’s a recording studio now. Jack Clement bought it from me. Garth Brooks owns it now.”
  • Veda – who regards the late Cowboy Jack Clement as a chum – later recorded in Clement’s Belmont Boulevard studio. He also did a portrait of Jack. “Jack was a Leo. So, I painted a lion’s body with Jack Clement’s face on it.”
  • Main goal now: To build a museum of modern art in Brentwood. “I want Brentwood because Williamson County is the richest county in Tennessee. It’s the safest place. I want it to be a place where we can have 200 parking places. I want to promote my art and other artists as well.”

Source for all information: Luis Gilbert Sepulveda (Gil Veda).