The Robinson LibraryTHE ROBINSON LIBRARY
The Robinson Library >> Music >> Biography: Musical Groups
The Ventures

"Walk, Don't Run," "Hawaii Five-O," and many more

Walk Don't Run, The Very Best of The Ventures (1964)

In 1958, Tacoma, Washington, hobby guitarists Bob Bogle and Don Wilson recorded a vocal single titled "Cookies and Coke." The single did not fare well, however, so Bogle and Wilson decided to recruit bassist Nokie Edwards and drummer Skip Moore and become an instrumental group, which they named The Ventures because they were "venturing into a new style of music." In 1959, The Ventures recorded "Walk, Don't Run," which became a regional hit after it was played as a news lead-in by a Seattle radio station (thanks to a friend with connections). Subsequently released nationally by Dolton Records, "Walk, Don't Run" hit the Billboad Singles Chart on July 18, 1960, and ultimately peaked at #2. The group's debut album, Walk, Don't Run (released December 5, 1960), peaked at #11 on the album chart and eventually went gold. A string of singles followed, two of which, "Perfidia" and "Ram-Bunk-Shush," made it onto the Billboad Top 40.

The Ventures went on to become the most successful instrumental rock group of all time, with over 100 million records sold, 14 hit singles, and 38 hit albums (17 of which made it into the Top 40). In the early 1960's, that success was fueled by the group's ability to keep abreast of of the latest vocal hits, and a great number of their albums focus on covers of vocal hits. One of the most successful of these albums was Twist with The Ventures (1961), featuring a cover of Chubby Checker's hit "The Twist," which peaked at #24 on the album charts. The Ventures were also willing to cover instrumental hits by other artists, with the most notable example being The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull (1963), featuring a cover of the #1 instrumental hit "Telstar" by The Tornadoes, which peaked at #8 on the chart and went gold.

The Ventures also routinely came up with unifying album concepts. Every song on The Colorful Ventures (1961), for example, had a color in its title, Ventures in Space (1963) consisted of space-themed songs around the time NASA was firing up the public’s imagination, and The Ventures’ Christmas Album (1965) charted annually for four years.

Willing to venture into almost any musical genre, The Ventures grabbed a share of the surf-music audience with Surfing (1963). When rock became psychedelic, so too did The Ventures, with Guitar Freakout (1967), Super Psychedelics (1967), Flights of Fantasy (1968), and Underground Fire (1969). The group ventured into the country world with The Ventures Play the Country Classics (1963), and even cut an album exclusively for the Japanese market, Ventures in Japan (1965).

The Ventures began losing their American market in the late-1960's. Hawaii Five-O (released May 10, 1969) peaked at #11 on the album charts and went gold, and its accompanying single, "Hawaii Five-O," peaked at #4, but by 1972 The Ventures had disappeared from the American charts for good. They did not, however, disappear from the music scene, because by then they had developed a huge fan base abroad, especially in Japan, and they are still performing to packed houses today.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, The Ventures' phenomenal success did not come with the constant turnover of personnel typical of many other bands. Original drummer Howie Johnson broke his neck in a 1961 car accident and was unable to handle extensive touring. Mel Taylor replaced him in 1962. This cemented the classic Ventures lineup of Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, and Mel Taylor, which lasted until 1968, when Edwards left to go solo and was replaced on lead guitar by Gerry McGee. Edwards returned to the fold in 1972 and remained until late 1984. Once again, he was replaced by McGee, who remains with the group and continues to tour with them in Japan. Bob Bogle retired from touring in December 2004 and was replaced by Bob Spalding. Today’s lineup comprises Don Wilson, Bob Spalding (who first appeared live with the group in 1981), Gerry McGee, and Leon Taylor (who replaced his late father Mel in 1996). Nokie Edwards still joins them on selected dates.

The Ventures' official website is www.theventures.com.

SEE ALSO
Chubby Checker

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Music >> Biography: Musical Groups

This page was last updated on 09/20/2017.