Victoria Lee Vest was born February 9, 1939 in Seattle, Washington. Her father was Frank Vest, whose family came from Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee, and her mother was the former Elisabeth Carter, whose family originated in Virginia. Victoria always wanted to see if she was related to the famous Carter Family. Her father had a gold mine in northern California and also ran a sawmill in eastern Washington state.
In high school, she played the female lead in the musical, "Oklahoma," and got "Most Talented" awards at graduation in 1957. In college in Seattle, she became interested in folk music and soon found herself singing for her supper in Rosarito Beach on the Baja Penninsula, singing songs like "Malaguena Salerosa," which she would sing again some thirty years later with her future husband, Don.
In 1963, Victoria married Pat Garvey and began a nine year musical partnership that produced two record albums: "Mr. & Mrs. Garvey" on Epic Records in 1968, and "Songs: 1965 - 1971" on their own Mud label in 1971. Here is what Victoria had to say about their Epic album:
This album was released early summer of 1968. We had been "struggling" in the music business for five years, which seems like an eternity when you are in your twenties. And it came like a bolt out of the blue.
We had been living in Aspen and other remote places for many years, with brief sorties into LA & then back to the mountains again to lick our wounds and regenerate.
At some point we said "Let's give up trying to 'make it,' start a rock band and just have some fun." At the same time, Chet Helms, who had started the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, came to Denver and opened a huge club, bringing in all the great groups of the time - Jefferson Airplane included. We took our rag-tag, funky, not very good band (we called it The Aspen Yacht Club) down to Denver and auditioned. We ended up opening for the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and got offers from 3 -count 'em - record companies. Epic was the one that worked after many months of back & forth.
The record got great reviews in newspapers across the country and in Billboard & Variety magazines. John Denver covered "Fugacity" on his first album and The Irish Rovers recorded "Fifi O'Toole, which climbed to Number One in Ireland.
The physical recording in Nashville was amazingly exciting. By some amazing stroke of luck, we got Bob Johnston, a producer of prodigious energy & talent who had previously produced Simon & Garfunkle, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan & many others.
We recorded for three 14 hour days, at the end of which I had no voice left, And for a band, we got the Nashville Cats who backed almost everyone who came to Nashville to record (YES, that IS Charlie Daniels on the far left).
We really wanted their pictures on the record since they were usually the unsung heroes we had all been hearing but not seeing. They even flew in an oboist from the Atlanta Symphony for the opening of "Fugacity."
We insisted on bringing our wonderful pianist, Craig Doerge, we had just begun to work with in LA. It was his first pro-job. He went on to work with James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Section.
With the exception of "Ghost Towns," all the songs were written in the 2 to 3 months preceding the recording.
Sadly, due to some inter-office negativity between LA & NYC, the album was not promoted. Not an unusual story in this business.
Still, what I remember is the JOY and all the great fans & friends made as a result of this album.
In 1971, their second album was released, containing some of their most popular songs: "The Lovin' Of The Game" (later recorded by Judy Collins, Steve Goodman, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rosalie Sorrels, Bill & Bonnie Hearne and many more), "Santa Fe River, "The Trail Of Tears" & "Elephant Smog," to name just a few.
Photo by Steve Cowan.
Victoria's & Pat's partnership ended in the spring of 1972, and her 42 year partnership with Don began soon after.
Victoria & Don toured the country playing music before moving to her adopted home of Santa Fe, New Mexico to do something she had always wanted to do: have a family.
ONE HAPPY MAMA With Joaquin (1973) & Celeste (1977)
STILL ONE HAPPY MAMA With Joaquin (2013)
And Celeste (2012)
With two small children, Victoria's & Don's extended touring came to a halt. This did not stop Victoria from appearing in the Santa Fe production of "Jacques Brel Is Alive & Well & Living In Paris." She also appeared in a birthday tribute to Irving Berlin, and she & Don together performed "Miss Otis Regrets" in a birthday tribute to Cole Porter.
In 1994, with both kids grown, Victoria & Don resumed touring, which they continued right up until Victoria's illness in 2013.
Celeste, Don, Victoria & Joaquin, September 2013.
October 2013. The last photo taken of Victoria & Don performing.
(Photo by Bob Block)