Petition to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Cover Letter to the Formal Petition
Submitted on May 31, 1998

The Ventures Hall of Fame Induction Committee
c/o P.O. Box 56
St. Thomas, VI 00804-0056
U.S.A.

May 31, 1998

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation
Attention: Ms. Susan Evans
1290 Avenue of the Americas, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10104

Dear Foundation Members:

I am writing to submit a third petition package in support of the induction of The Ventures into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Petition packages were previously submitted on September 15, 1997 (via Certified Mail) and on March 15, 1998 (via Express Mail). This package brings the total number of petition "signatures" we have submitted thus far to 1,801 (Attachment 1). The summary of petition responses (Page 4 of Attachment 1) shows that The Ventures are known and loved by fans in all 50 States; the District of Columbia; the three U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam; and at least 30 nations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and even Africa! This, more than anything else, clearly demonstrates the universal appeal of The Ventures and the fact that they have made American instrumental rock and roll a universal "language" that brings people of widely different cultural, political, and ethnic backgrounds together. I sincerely doubt that any other rock group or artist (with the possible exception of the Beatles) can make a claim of such widespread universal appeal.

In the transmittal letter for the first petition package, I presented my personal views on why The Ventures should be inducted. That case was based on a review of their musical versatility, universal appeal, popular and commercial success, and musical influence. In the transmittal letter for the second petition package, I presented comments from scores of fans around the world about how The Ventures had affected their lives and the comments of several well-known rock stars, including Peter Frampton, Elliot Easton, Rick Derringer, and others, about how The Ventures had influenced their musical careers. For this third petition package, I present some hard facts about the musical success and achievements of The Ventures. I believe that these petition packages clearly support, each from a different perspective, the case for the induction of The Ventures into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Ventures and the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll"

A few days ago, I was browsing through the Internet web site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The web page describing one particular exhibit -- 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll -- caught my attention. According to the Museum's web site:

Using touch screen technology, visitors can access "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll" as selected by the Hall of Fame and Museum curatorial staff. The songs, arranged by artist and by decade, cover a variety of artists and genres and offer the listener an opportunity to sample some of the most popular and influential recordings in the history of rock and roll.

I was very surprised, yet very pleased, to find that the Hall of Fame and Museum's curatorial staff had chosen "Walk, Don't Run" by The Ventures as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll." "Walk, Don't Run" is a song that predated, but helped to define the genre of music that would later be called "Instrumental Surf Rock," and on that basis, I agree 100% with the curatorial staff that "Walk, Don't Run" is a song that "shaped rock and roll."

But this brings up a rather interesting but unfortunate paradox. If "Walk, Don't Run" is (as defined by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its own official web site) one of "the most popular and influential recordings in the history of rock and roll," where is the logic of the Hall of Fame continuing to ignore the recording artists who created that song -- The Ventures -- as also being one of "the most popular and influential recordings artists in the history of rock and roll?"

The editors of "The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll" (1995 edition) state that:

The Ventures are one of the first, best, most lasting and influential of instrumental guitar-based rock combos (rivaled only by Britain's Shadows). Their trademark sound -- driving mechanical drums, metallic guitars twanging out simple, catchy pop tunes -- has filtered down through the years to gain prominence in the sounds of bands like Blondie, the B-52's, and the Go-Go's. Often classified as a surf-rock band, The Ventures actually predated surf music and lasted well beyond its early-Sixties boom. . . . In 1965, they released what was one of the first instructional records,"Play Guitar with the Ventures."

In discussing "surf music," the Encyclopedia's editors also state that:

Instrumental surf music featured throbbing tribal tom-tom tattoos and trebly, metallic, twanging guitar riffs: The Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run," the Duals' "Stick Shift," Dick Dale and the Del-tones' "Miserlou." Thanks in large part to the prolific Ventures, instrumental surf rock has proven one of rock's most influential subgenres.

It is ironic that, while the editors of this authoritative reference work on the history of rock and roll recognize the important influence of both "Walk, Don't Run" and The Ventures, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's curatorial staff at least recognizes the important influence of "Walk, Don't Run," the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues to ignore the important influence of the artists who created that song -- The Ventures!

The Ventures and the Billboard Singles and Album Charts

Another authoritative reference source on the history of rock and roll is Mr. Joel Whitburn, who's Record Research, Inc. painstakingly compiles and publishes statistics on the recording industry. Information contained in two of Mr. Whitburn's publications reveal some interesting facts about the importance of The Ventures and their music in the history of rock and roll.

My review of the current inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (through 1997) shows that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has almost completely ignored the important contribution of "instrumental" recording artists and "instrumental" rock on the overall history of rock and roll. Only two "instrumental" performers are among the Hall of Fame's 128 "performer" inductees -- Duane Eddy and Booker T and the MGs. Just on the face of it, this appears to be a completely disproportionate under-representation of "instrumental" performers in the Hall of Fame, especially considering that very few popular vocal performers would have gained their popularity and success without the "instrumental" musicians who backed them up. For example, how popular would the Beatles have been if they had sung a capella, without George's "weeping" lead guitar, John's rhythm guitar, Paul's bass, or Ringo's drums? (Let's see -- lead, rhythm, and bass guitars plus drums -- I wonder who popularized that line-up for a rock and roll band?)

Regardless of the "vocal" versus "instrumental" issue, Mr. Whitburn's authoritative reference books highlight some additional inconsistencies with specific regard to The Ventures.

Joel Whitburn's reference book "Billboard Top Pop Singles: 1995-1993" (the latest edition available to me) shows that:

  • Between 1960 and 1968, The Ventures had 14 singles on the Billboard Top Singles charts (Attachment 2), including six "Top 40" and three "Top 10" singles -- "Walk, Don't Run" (#2 in 1960), "Walk, Don't Run '64" (#8 in 1964), and "Hawaii Five-0" (#4 in 1969). With the double "Top 10" placements of "Walk, Don't Run" and "Walk, Don't Run '64," The Ventures became the first and (to the best of my knowledge) only recording artists to have hit the Billboard Top 10 twice with different versions of the same song.

  • Based on that performance, The Ventures rank 4th among all-time instrumental artists on the Billboard Top Singles charts, behind Duane Eddy (28 top singles), the Bill Black Combo (19 top singles), and Booker T & the MGs (17 top singles). Duane Eddy and Booker T & the MGs have already been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in fact they are the only instrumental artists in the Hall of Fame). Based solely on their close ranking behind Duane Eddy and Booker T and the MGs in the Billboard Top Singles charts, The Ventures also deserve recognition by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But, there's an even more compelling argument for their induction . . .

Joel Whitburn's companion reference book "Billboard Top Pop Albums: 1955-1996" (the latest edition available to me) shows that:

  • Between 1960 and 1972, The Ventures had 37 albums on the Billboard Top Album charts (Attachment 2), including 17 "Top 40" and one "Top 10" albums -- "The Ventures Play 'Telstar' and 'The Lonely Bull'" (#8 in 1963). They also had three Gold albums during this period -- "The Ventures Play 'Telstar' and 'The Lonely Bull'" (1963), "Golden Greats" (1967), and "Hawaii Five-0" (1969). In fact, The Ventures were consistent album charters, with an amazing five albums on the Billboard Top Album charts during 1963, and four albums on the charts in each year of 1962, 1965, 1966, and 1967!

  • Based on that performance, The Ventures rank 26th among all-time artists (vocal or instrumental) on the Billboard Top Album charts, behind Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Johnny Mathis, Barbara Streisand, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Mantovani, Bob Dylan, Ray Conniff, The Temptations, The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond, James Brown, Lawrence Welk, Aretha Franklin, Andy Williams, The Kingston Trio, Henry Mancini, Ray Charles, The Supremes, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Willie Nelson, Roger Williams, and Eric Clapton. If the "non-rock" artists (underscored) are removed from this list, The Ventures rank 13th among all-time rock artists on the Billboard Top Album charts. Where are the only two instrumental inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the charts? Well, Duane Eddy ranks 346th and Booker T and the MGs rank 430th!

  • Further, The Ventures rank 6th among recording artists (vocal or instrumental) of the 1960s on the Billboard Top Album charts, behind The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Conniff, and Ray Charles. Again, if the "non-rock" artists (underscored) are removed from this list, The Ventures rank 3rd among 1960s rock artists on the Billboard Top Album charts, behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley -- pretty impressive company. How do Duane Eddy and Booker T and the MGs compare? They aren't even in the top 20. Duane Eddy had only 10 albums (1959 to 1964) on the Billboard Top Album charts and Booker T and the MGs had only 11 albums (1962 to 1971) on the charts, as compared with The Ventures' 37 albums (1960 to 1972).

In summary, therefore, without detracting from the merit of having inducted Duane Eddy and Booker T and the MGs into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where is the logic of not also inducting The Ventures? On an overall basis, The Ventures have clearly achieved greater popular and commercial success in the history of rock and roll than either Duane Eddy or Booker T and the MGs. If they are worthy of induction, so too are The Ventures!

The Ventures as Musical Composers and Innovators

In a 1989 video interview, Elliot Easton of the Cars stated that:

The Ventures were the ultimate cover band. It was our first exposure to hits like "Apache," which was a cover, and "Pipeline" was the Chantays, and "Wipe Out" was the Surfaris, and "Walk, Don't Run" was Johnny Smith. But we all knew them as Ventures songs, much the same way that young blues players learn Muddy Waters songs from Rolling Stones records.

Indeed, perhaps The Ventures are best known for their covers of popular hits of the day -- both instrumental and vocal. However, to dismiss The Ventures as merely "imitators" would be a gross misrepresentation of the facts and a disservice to a group of extremely talented and hard-working musicians.

  • First, with regard to The Ventures' covers of instrumental hits, they did more than just "imitate." I challenge anyone to listen to the original and The Ventures' versions of such instrumental rock classics as "Wipe Out" (The Surfaris), "Pipeline" (The Chantays), "Apache" (The Shadows), "Telstar" (The Tornadoes), "Out of Limits" (The Marketts), "Bulldog" (The Fireballs), "Time Is Tight" (Booker T and the MGs), "Classical Gas" (Mason Williams),or even "Walk, Don't Run" (Johnny Smith and Chet Atkins) and honestly tell me that The Ventures' versions are merely "copies" of the originals! In virtually every case, The Ventures took what was a "good" song and made it a "great" song by adding their own unique musical signatures -- a richer guitar sound, a more prominent bass line, a more percussive rhythm, a more complex melodic lead, or a more distinctive driving drum beat. In fact, as mentioned by Elliot Easton, many of the songs mentioned above have become associated more with The Ventures than with the original artists, because in the hands of The Ventures those songs came alive like never before.

  • With regard to The Ventures' covers of vocal hits, they probably did more to bring American rock and roll to the non-English speaking countries of the world than any other recording artists in history, and certainly in the 1960s. Through their steady stream of albums featuring instrumental versions of the latest vocal hits of the day, The Ventures allowed non-English speaking fans to enjoy those hits without the language barrier getting in the way. This is one of the main reasons why The Ventures became overnight idols in Japan and still remain so popular in that country that they were recently signed to do concert tours of Japan over the next five years -- well into the 21st Century. Listen to lead guitarists Nokie Edwards's or Gerry McGee's renditions of such hits as "Runaway," "Satisfaction," "Light My Fire," "House of the Rising Sun," "Yesterday," "Eleanor Rigby," or any countless others, and you'll almost hear their guitars singing the lyrics!

  • But The Ventures are more than "just" a cover band. They are also accomplished composers in their own right. The recent cult-classic movie "Pulp Fiction" generated a resurgence in the popularity of surf-rock music. One of the most prominent songs was "Surf Rider," which was used for the film's end titles. Few people realize that, although the version used in the movie was by the Lively Ones, "Surf Rider" is an original composition by The Ventures' lead guitarist, Nokie Edwards, and was recorded by The Ventures as "Spudnik" before it was recorded by the Lively One as "Surf Rider". Early in their career, The Ventures hit on the successful pattern of producing themed albums that featured 6 or 7 instrumental covers of then-popular hits songs and 5 or 6 original compositions. Many of those original compositions have become hits themselves, including the already-mentioned "Surf Rider," "Journey to the Stars," "Yellow Jacket," and "Gandy Dancer." When they began producing records in Japan, The Ventures were soon tapped by Japanese singers to compose songs for them. Many of those songs also became big hits in that country both in their vocal and their instrumental versions. Some of the better known Japanese pop compositions by The Ventures include "Ginza Lights," "Hokkaido Skies," "Kyoto Doll," and "Reflections in a Palace Lake." In 1971, The Ventures became the first non-Japanese to be inducted into the Japanese Conservatory of Music in recognition of their position among the Top 10 composers in that country. Quite an achievement for "down home" American rock and roll musicians who are ignored by their own country's heralded Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Take a look at the list of The Ventures' more than 135 original compositions (Attachment 3) and you'll have to agree that they have achieved more in this aspect of the rock and roll music industry than many artists/composers who are already in the Hall of Fame.

  • Finally, during the decade of the 1960s, when most recording artists were producing singles (with albums thrown together almost as an after-thought), The Ventures were innovators in that they concentrated on producing themed albums (with singles being a by-product of the albums). They began their careers in 1960 with the #11 charting "Walk, Don't Run" album, and continued to build on this initial success during the next 40 years. Even today, when CD albums are the norm, few if any recording artists produce more than one album every couple of years. At their peak during the 1960s, The Ventures routinely produced five or six albums every year, and throughout their 40-year careers they have always produced at least one album each year! The Ventures' discography (available online at www.sandcastlevi.com) includes an unbelievable 64 U.S.-released LP albums during the period of 1960 to 1988 (including 5 history-making instructional albums) and 17 CD albums during the period of 1987 to 1998 (excluding CD reissues of their LP albums). In addition, The Ventures' discography includes an even more amazing 109 Japanese-released LP albums (excluding reissues of their U.S. LP albums) during the period of 1963 to 1983 and 46 CD albums (excluding CD reissues of their LP albums) during the period of 1984 to 1998. Further, The Ventures have had 121 LP and 26 CD albums (excluding CD reissues of their U.S. and Japanese albums) released in 26 other countries in all continents except Antarctica. Few recording artists of any decade and of any musical genre can match that achievement.

The Ventures and Underground Fire

During the past two of years, I've been fortunate to have met and become friends with more than 125 other fans of The Ventures who have come together through the Internet in an email discussion group called Underground Fire (the name of one of The Ventures' almost 400 albums). Attached are letters from several of the Underground Fire members (Attachment 4), expressing their personal stories as to how The Ventures have affected their lives in a positive way. Some of the Underground Fire members began to play guitar simply as a hobby, others went on to become professional musicians, still others don't play a musical instrument but have developed a love for rock and roll music in general. Some of them have seen The Ventures in concert and have had the opportunity to regard these men, not as "superstars" or "rock stars," but as gentlemen (in every sense of the word) who truly care about the quality of their music and who care equally as much about their fans.

As you read the attached letters, I hope you will agree with us that The Ventures have been, and continue to be, true "ambassadors of good will" for American rock and roll music throughout the world and across generational boundaries. Perhaps even more importantly, The Ventures have been, and continue to be, positive role models for the youth of America and the world, as opposed to the drug-crazed, crass, sexploitative recording artists that unfortunately represent so much of rock and roll today. They have also positively influenced the lives of countless fans in a way that has influenced the very development of rock and roll. I would especially like to bring to your attention a series of email messages (Pages 11 and 12 of Attachment 4) discussing the recent "first gigs" of two 15-year old Ventures fans. These two young men (Scott and Jonathan) are living proof that, almost 40 years after they first appeared on the rock and roll scene, The Ventures are still inspiring new generations of fans to learn to play the guitar and become active participants in the rock and roll phenomenon. I doubt you could name a single other rock group or artist that can make such a claim!

But, there's even more. Some of the members of Underground Fire have been influenced in a more direct way, as evidence by the fact that Underground Fire is one of the only (if not the only) fan organizations to have actually recorded and produced its own "tribute album" to its musical heroes. In late 1997, 13 members of Underground Fire took out their guitars and drums and made their own recordings of themselves and/or their "garage bands" playing several of The Ventures' songs. These individual tapes were then submitted to one member with a home recording studio to pull the individual efforts together into "Underground Fire Plays The Ventures," a not-for-sale audio cassette tribute album to The Ventures. Earlier this year, the members of Underground Fire recorded another batch of The Ventures' songs for "Underground Fire Plays The Ventures, Volume 2," which is now being compiled and reproduced for distribution to the members. A "Volume 3" is also already being talked about. I doubt if any other rock and roll recording artists, past or present, can proudly claim that their fans were so inspired by their music that they actually made the effort of learning to play, recording, and producing their own tribute album to their musical idols.

In closing, in case this letter, the attached letters from the members of Underground Fire (Attachment 4), and the additional letters submitted by fans from around the world as part of the petition signature drive (Attachment 1) aren't compelling enough, I have enclosed a single-copy audio cassette that I compiled to highlight The Ventures' 40-year musical careers (Attachment 5 for comments on the songs included on the cassette). This cassette will give the members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation a small taste of the musical magic spun by The Ventures. I'm certain that after they've taken a listen, they'll agree to do the right thing and induct The Ventures into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sincerely,

Arnold E. van Beverhoudt, Jr.
Committee Co-Chairman

P.O. Box 56
St. Thomas, VI 00804-0056
U.S.A.

Email: arnoldvb@islands.vi
Web: www.sandcastlevi.com

Attachments:

| To Cast Your Vote for The Ventures | Attachment 1 > |

To See Petitions Already Submitted, Select From the Following Options:
| September 1997 | March 1998 | May 1998 | May 1999 | June 2000 | July 2001 | March 2004 | November 2006 |


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