If ever there was a “band that launched a thousand bands,” it would be the Ventures. Founded in Tacoma, Washington in 1958, their guitar-based instrumental sound would prove hugely influential, inspiring countless followers to pick up a guitar, bass or set of drumsticks and try to emulate their heroes. As these musical neophytes would soon learn, it wasn’t as easy as it initially appeared. The Ventures were masters of tone and technique, deftly arranging their instruments in a seamless approach that was instantly recognizable. Because they were an instrumental group, their songs needed no translation, which resulted in a huge worldwide following. While many rock bands have claimed to be “big in Japan” over the years, the Ventures were the country’s first rock superstars and they maintain a devoted worldwide following to this day. With over 100 million records sold, they are the best selling instrumental group of all time.
IN THE BEGINNING: SUITS, TIES & STRATS
Don Wilson and Bob Bogle both worked as masonry artisans in Tacoma and subsequently discovered that they had a common interest in the guitar. They formed a group and began playing at area clubs, with a very smart, buttoned-down stage image in the style of the day. Known then as the Versatones, they used various rhythm sections until they spotted guitarist Nokie Edwards playing with another band. As Bogle and Wilson already had the guitar parts covered, they asked Edwards to fill the bass position and he agreed. Drummer Skip Moore completed the first lineup of the group that would become known as the Ventures.
As the nascent group was coalescing, a song on Chet Atkins’ album Hi Fi in Focus caught the ear of Bob Bogle. He brought the song, titled “Walk, Don’t Run,” to the attention of the group and they duly worked up an arrangement. They recorded the song and pressed up some 7” copies, which they sent around to various record companies. The single was released on the Blue Horizon label in 1960 and became a local hit on Seattle radio. This airplay caught the attention of Liberty Records subsidiary Dolton, which leased the rights to the single and signed the band to a recording contract. The group went back into the studio to record enough songs for their debut album, named after their fast-climbing single. The band’s formidable, twin-Stratocaster feuled sound proved to be immensely popular and was perfectly suited for the emerging LP market. In fine tuning that sound, the band made the decision to move Edwards to lead guitar while Bogle took over bass duties. With the addition of Los Angeles club and studio veteran Mel Taylor on drums in 1962, the classic Ventures lineup was in place.
MOSRITES & FUZZ BOXES A GO-GO!
The Ventures quickly became comfortable in the studio and used the opportunity to experiment, making use of cutting-edge technology. Edwards, for example, made pioneering use of a fuzz distortion pedal on 1962’s “The Two Thousand Pound Bee,” helping to popularize the effect, which was subsequently heard on numerous records. Their rendition of “Silver Bells” on The Ventures Christmas Album marked one of the first recorded uses of a vocoder as a musical effect. Edwards was also one of the first guitarists to record with an electric twelve string, an instrument that would become a staple of the folk-rock genre. Beyond these innovations, the Ventures were also one of the first groups to sequence their albums around specific themes, laying the groundwork for many artists to follow.
Guitar manufacturer Mosrite took note of the Ventures’ success and inked the group to an endorsement deal for their Mark I guitars and basses. These instruments, rebranded with the Ventures logo, were prominently featured on their album covers, in their publicity photos and on stage at their live shows. Mosrite sales soared, and the Ventures continued to produce a stunning series of albums, mixing covers of contemporary hits with original compositions. Whether laying down a charging, fuzz-drenched rendition of “Wild Thing” or slowing things down for a subtle ballad, the band’s quality control and attention to detail never wavered. In between studio sessions, they maintained their rigorous road schedule, returning often to Japan where they were hailed as conquering heroes with each visit.
FIVE-O PSYCHEDELIC FREAK-OUT!
The band continued to evolve as musical trends in the 60s rapidly progressed. They traded their blazers for Nehru jackets, absorbing the psychedelic emanations of the rock scene and translating them into their signature style. As always, their proficiency allowed them to follow any musical path, from guitar freak-out to pop effervescence. Edwards left the group in 1968 and was replaced by Gerry McGee. At this point, the band enjoyed the biggest hit single of their career with the theme of “Hawaii Five-O.” A pile-driving showcase for Taylor as well as the rest of the band and guest horn section, it remains one of the biggest instrumental hits of the rock era. They continued their frenetic touring and recording schedule, always on top of prevailing musical trends. Charting a mind-boggling 34 (!) albums during the decade, the band emerged from the 60’s triumphantly and remained required listening for beginning guitarists and seasoned veterans alike. Their influence blossomed again with the rise of the punk and new wave scenes, with no less an icon than Johnny Ramone feverishly strumming a battered Mosrite. The group has drawn accolades from all musicians of all genres and received rock’s highest honor when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Despite losing some members along the way, the Ventures continue to perform and spread their joyous musical message to fans of all ages. Long may they rock!
And now Sundazed is proud to rightfully address the magnificent Ventures’ catalog—each title has been sourced from the original Dolton and Liberty Records’ reels and painstakingly mastered to sound and feel like they were originally intended. Along with precise artwork restoration on each vinyl LP title, these new
Sundazed editions stand as the definitive re-releases of these monumentally important albums!