The Ventures are a highly acclaimed and veteran instrumental rock band with a powerful, hard-driving sound that became famous during the 1960s. Their numerous hits include the thunderous surf rock classic, "Walk - Don't Run" (1960), and their scorching rendition of "Hawaii Five-O" (1969), the title theme to the TV police drama series starring Jack Lord. The Ventures were among the first to make use of twelve-string guitars and pioneered such psychedelic effects as fuzz and flanging. Dubbed "The Band That Launched A Thousand Bands," their electric guitar wizardry has inspired such performing artists as The Beach Boys, John Fogerty, George Harrison, Gene Simmons, Stephen Stills, and Joe Walsh.
Formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington by fellow construction workers Bob Bogle (January 16, 1934 - June 14, 2009) and Don Wilson, the band began as a duo known as The Versatones, with Bogle as lead guitarist and Wilson on rhythm guitar. By 1959, they had changed their name to The Ventures and soon after expanded into a quartet. In addition to Bogle and Wilson, The Ventures early hitmaking lineup also consisted of bassist Nokie Edwards (May 9, 1935 - March 12, 2018), who later took over as lead guitarist, and drummer Skip Moore who can be heard on the band's first hit, "Walk - Don't Run" (1960). Moore's time with the band was brief, however, and Howie Johnson (d. May 5, 1988, age 54) took over as drummer in late 1960, remaining until 1962 when Mel Taylor (September 24, 1933 - August 11, 1996) joined The Ventures on a more permanent basis. By 1961, Edwards and Bogle had switched instrumental duties, with Bogle on bass and Edwards on lead guitar. In 1968, The Ventures added a fifth member, keyboardist John Durrill, who remained with the band through 1972. Lead guitarist Edwards left The Ventures in 1968 and was replaced by Gerry McGee (d. October 12, 2019) who stayed through 1972 when Edwards rejoined the band.
The Ventures debuted in 1960 on the Pop/Rock charts with their greatest hit, "Walk - Don't Run," which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and soon after went gold. This smash, which brought international fame to the band, was later included in Rolling Stones magazine's "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time." The Ventures soon after followed up with "Perfidia" (1960), a Top 20 surf rock version of the Latin traditional pop standard. In 1964, The Ventures had a Top 10 hit with "Walk - Don't Run '64," an updated version of their original 1960 smash. The band later had another Top 5 hit with its remake of the Morton Stevens-penned "Hawaii Five-O" (1969). The Ventures' long string of hits also includes "Ram-Bunk-Shush" (1961), "Lullaby Of The Leaves" (1961), "Blue Moon" (1961), "Lolita Ya-Ya" (1962), "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" (1964), and "Secret Agent Man" (1966). Other songs for which The Ventures became well known include their non-charting covers of such instrumental rock standards as Jorgen Ingmann's "Apache," The Chantays' "Pipeline," The Tornados' "Telstar," and The Surfaris' "Wipe Out." The band's final charting song came in 1976 with its rendition of the Glenn Miller-penned swing ballad, "Moonlight Serenade," which became a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
Since their commercial peak in the U.S. during the 1960s, The Ventures have amassed a huge and loyal international following. They remain enormously popular in Europe and especially Japan where they have continued to tour to the present day, with many personnel changes over the years. Founders Bob Bogle and Don Wilson were the longest continuous members of The Ventures, with Bogle remaining until 2005 and Wilson retiring from touring in 2015. Nokie Edwards stayed on as lead guitarist through 1985, later serving as a guest artist from 1999-2016 on occasion. Longtime early drummer Mel Taylor played with the band up to his passing in 1996. The current Ventures lineup consists of Luke Griffin (bass), Bob Spalding (bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar), Ian Spalding (bass, rhythm guitar), and Leon Taylor (drums), the son of Mel Taylor. Although no longer touring, Don Wilson, the lone surviving member of the original Ventures, continues to record with the band.
The Ventures many honors and accolades include being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Their signature song, "Walk - Don't Run," was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2006 in recognition of its lasting cultural significance. The band has released a whopping 200+ albums that include several popular instructional LPs for playing the guitar, as well as over 60 singles. With 110 million records sold worldwide to date, The Ventures are the top selling instrumental rock band of all time.
- For more info about the history of The Ventures and the band's touring schedule, visit theventures.com.
- Ventures co-founder Don Wilson discusses the band's early days, guitar techniques, and other topics in an interview with Lisa Torem of pennyblackmusic.co.uk (10/27/2011).
- The Los Angeles Times remembers Ventures co-founder Bob Bogle.
- Rolling Stone remembers Nokie Edwards.
- The Independent remembers Mel Taylor.
- The Advocate remembers Gerry McGee.
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- Hawaii Five-O 1969
- Perfidia 1960
- Ram-Bunk-Shush 1961
(This instrumental song was previously a hit for Bill Doggett (1957).)
- Slaughter On Tenth Avenue 1964
- Walk - Don't Run 1960
(A newer version of this song, "Walk - Don't Run '64," later also became a hit for the Ventures (1964).)
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