Original lead guitarist Bob Bogle, alongside fellow masonry worker Don Wilson, founded The Ventures in Washington State in 1958, performing at local clubs and bars (originally as The Versatones). Nokie Edwards joined on bass soon after.
They pressed a twangy, rocked-up version of Johnny Smith’s Walk Don’t Run on their own Blue Horizon label, which was later picked up by Dolton Records.
It became a #2 hit in 1960 and sparked an incredible career that led to record sales of more than 100 million and cemented the band’s status as the most successful instrumental group of all time.
Bogle and Edwards switched instruments and Mel Taylor replaced Johnson on drums in 1963. More hit singles featuring their cleanly played but rockin’ style followed, but the band wisely entered the album market early on, and it was there they found their true format placing 37 chart entries and more than 50 albums between 1960 and the mid-’70s.
With their solid-body Fender guitars (later switching to Mosrite Ventures models) and matching suits, their album covers defined what a rock & roll combo should look like.
Likewise, their sound was so popular that they released several successful instructional albums in the Play with the Ventures series that many later rock stars cut their teeth on.
Because they played instrumentals, they were among the first American bands to break big in Japan (no language barrier), eventually honoured as the first foreign members of that country’s Conservatory of Music for selling over 40 million records.
The group even starred in a great Japanese-made black & white movie – part travel documentary, part concert-performance film – called Beloved Invaders: The Ventures, in 1965. The bulk of the movie consists of the group sightseeing, signing autographs, eating noodles with chopsticks, and travelling around Japan, with concert footage from each city shown. They even fly to Hiroshima, where they visit a crowded Pachinko parlour.
Edwards left and was replaced for a while by Jerry McGee, but he returned in 1972, restoring the original line-up. They continued to tour and record, sounding better than ever, their place in rock & roll guitar history assured.
Drummer Mel Taylor passed away on 11 August 1996, aged 62. Bob Bogle died in 2009.
Nokie Edwards died on 12 March 2018. He was 82.
Lead Guitar, bass
Nokie (Noel) Edwards
Bass, lead guitar