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The Ventures

The Ventures are an American instrumental surf rock band formed in Tacoma, Washington, in 1958, by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle. The band, which was a quartet for most of its existence, helped to popularize the electric guitar across the world during the 1960s. While their popularity in the United States waned in the 1970s, the group remains especially revered in Japan, where they toured regularly. The classic lineup of the band consisted of Wilson (rhythm guitar), Bogle (initially lead guitar, later bass), Nokie Edwards (initially bass, later lead guitar), and Mel Taylor (drums).

Their first wide-release single, "Walk, Don't Run" (1960), brought international fame to the group, and is often cited as one of the top songs ever recorded for guitar. In the 1960s and early 1970s, 38 of the band's albums charted in the US, ranking them as the 6th best album chart performer during the 1960s, and the band had 14 singles in the Billboard Hot 100. With over 100 million records sold, the Ventures are the best-selling instrumental band of all time.

The Ventures have had an enduring impact on the development of music worldwide. The band was among the first to employ and popularize fuzz and flanging guitar effects, concept albums, and twelve-string guitars in rock music. Their instrumental virtuosity, innovation, and unique sound influenced many musicians and bands, earning the group the moniker "The Band that Launched a Thousand Bands". Their recording of "Walk, Don't Run" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its lasting impact, and in 2008 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Don Wilson and Bob Bogle first met in 1958, when Bogle was looking to buy a car from a used car dealership in Seattle owned by Wilson's father. Finding a common interest in guitars, the two decided to play together, while Wilson joined Bogle performing masonry work. They bought two used guitars in a pawn shop for about $10 each. Initially calling themselves the Versatones, the duo played small clubs, beer bars, and private parties throughout the Pacific Northwest. Wilson played rhythm guitar, Bogle lead. When they went to register the band name, they found that it was already taken. Disappointed, they cast about for an appropriate name. Wilson's mother suggested the name "The Ventures", upon which they eventually agreed in 1959.

During their first years (1958–1961), the Ventures played Fender guitars (a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster and a Precision Bass) for both their live performances and their recording sessions. These instruments are prominently visible on the covers of two early albums: The Ventures and The Colorful Ventures. From 1962 to 1963 they used two Jazzmasters with a Precision Bass, shown on the album cover of "Bobby Vee meets The Ventures". Then in early 1963, California guitar manufacturer Mosrite re-branded their uniquely styled, futuristic-looking Mark 1 electric guitar model for the Ventures by applying decals that stated "The Ventures Model" on the headstock. The band adopted these guitars (which included a bass model) and first used them on The Ventures in Space (1963), one of their most influential albums because of the unique, otherworldly guitar sounds it contained. From 1963 through 1968, a statement on their album covers announced that the Ventures used Mosrite guitars "exclusively" (the Ventures and designer Semie Moseley were partners in the distribution of these instruments). After the expiration of their contract with Moseley, the Ventures returned to playing mainly Fender guitars. Only rarely have they used Mosrite guitars since that contract ended.

In the mid-1990s, Fender issued a limited edition Ventures Signature Series of guitars consisting of a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, and a Fender Jazz Bass, all with specifications determined by the band.

Aria Guitars and Wilson Brothers Guitars have subsequently issued Ventures Signature Model instruments. The Wilson Brothers guitar, in particular, is closely modeled physically on the original Mosrite design.

The Ventures pioneered the use of special effects on such songs as "The 2000 Pound Bee", recorded in late 1962, in which lead guitarist Nokie Edwards employed a fuzz pedal. Edwards' use of "fuzz tone" predated the "King of Fuzz Guitar", Davie Allan of The Arrows, by at least three years. In addition, Edwards was among the first to use the twelve-string guitar in rock. The 1964 The Ventures In Space album was a primer in the use of special guitar effects, and made pioneering use of 'reverse-tracking'. The Ventures In Space, because of its ethereal space-like effects, was deemed an influence on the later 1960s San Francisco psychedelic generation, as well as being cited as a favorite by Keith Moon of the Who.

The band's cover of the Tornados' "Telstar" (released in January 1963) featured one of the first instances of flanging on a pop record. The song "Silver Bells" on The Ventures' Christmas Album, released in November 1965, has one of the first recorded uses of a talk box as a musical effect, voiced by Red Rhodes.

The Ventures have had an influence on many musicians, both professional and amateur. Their instructional album, Play Guitar with the Ventures, was the first such record to chart on the Billboard Top LPs list, peaking at No. 96, and taught thousands of budding guitarists how to play the guitar. George Harrison stated in a Guitar Player interview that he preferred the American guitar sound of the Ventures to British contemporaries. When asked to name the most influential rock guitar solos, Joe Walsh said he would have to include the entire song "Walk, Don't Run" because it changed so many guitar players' lives. John Fogerty, during his introduction of the Ventures at their Hall of Fame induction, said that it "kicked open a whole movement in rock and roll... The sound of it became 'surf music' and the audacity of it empowered guitarists everywhere." Stephen Stills told Ventures guitarist Don Wilson that he learned to play on Ventures records. Jeff Baxter and Gene Simmons were early members of the Ventures Fan Club. Carl Wilson called the Ventures a major influence on his early guitar playing, stating that the Beach Boys had learned to play all of their songs by ear.

Bob Bogle lived in Vancouver, Washington, for years and died there on June 14, 2009, of non-Hodgkin lymphoma; he was 75.

Nokie Edwards died on March 12, 2018, due to complications after hip surgery. He was 82.

Gerry McGee died on October 12, 2019, after having a heart attack and collapsing onstage four days earlier in Japan. He was 81.

Don Wilson continued to record with the band, but retired from touring at the end of 2015. He died of natural causes on January 22, 2022, at the age of 88.

Mel Taylor died on August 11, 1996, of cancer, at the age of 62. He was diagnosed two weeks before his death. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.