The Ventures

The Ventures were an enormously popular instrumental rock band in the 60's and continue to perform with no signs of slowing down.

The group was formed in 1959 in the Seattle/Tacoma area as the Versatones. The original group members were Don Wilson and on guitar, Bob Bogle on bass, Nokie Edwards on lead guitar and Howie Johnson on drums. They recorded at first on their own label in Seattle which they called Blue Horizon. They recorded what would prove to be their highest charting single, Walk Don't Run, in 1959 on Blue Horizon, pressed copies of it and began mailing the record to radio stations. It was picked up by Dolton, the group was re-named, and that version topped out at number two in 1960. Prevailing instrumental songs that were popular at the time were characterized by a raunchy sound, such as that of Johnny and the Hurricanes, but the Ventures introduced a clean, bold sound that would be emulated by many others in the years to come [including the Shadows in the UK].

In the wake of the success of Walk Don't Run, Wilson and Bogel left their jobs in the building industry to pursue music full time. The group issued a cover of Perfidia, a Latin song that had been made popular by Alberto Dominguez in 1939. Perfidia reached number 15. Drummer Johnson was injured in an automobile accident and replaced by Mel Taylor, and the band began to get away from singles and concentrate on recording albums. Theirs was a guitar-based distinctively different sound that lent itself well to the instrumentals that they recorded in large numbers.

Although the Ventures made mostly albums following their initial success, they did have two more hit singles later in the 60's. A new version of their original hit titled Walk Don't Run '64 made the top ten, as did their release of Hawaii Five-O in 1969. Hawaii Five-O is the theme song from the long-running television series of the same name.

Throughout the 60's and 70's there were some personnel changes in the group. Nokie Edwards left and was replaced by Gerry McGee. Edwards later returned to the Ventures, and left again. Keyboard player John Durrill joined the group in the late 60's. Mel Taylor left at one point and formed his own group, Mel Taylor and the Dynamics, but later returned to the group. Some of the artists who worked as guests or session players with the Ventures in the 60's included Leon Russell, Harvey Mandel, and David Gates.

The Ventures have always been enormously popular in Japan, in part because their instrumental recordings cross over the language barrier. During the 60's as the British Invasion swept America, they would make instrumental covers of popular hit songs and compile them in albums. By the end of 1973, they had issued over 50 albums. Many of their LP's were issued only in Japan. After surpassing 40,000,000 in record sales, the Ventures became the first foreign members of Japan's Conservatory of Music.

The group is still going strong today. Most of their more recent issues feature a lineup of Bogle, Wilson, McGee and Taylor. Mel Taylor passed away in August, 1996.

The Ventures were one of the top instrumental rock bands of the 60's.

Most Recent Update: April 6, 2002

Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.

Return to Home Page.

Send email to the author, Tom Simon