Band History

In the Beginning

The instrumental rock group The Ventures had its beginning around 1959, when two construction workers in the Seattle, Washington area became friends and found out that they had a common interest in guitars. Bob Bogle and Don Wilson developed their playing skills and started making the tour of small clubs in Washington state and nearby Idaho. They later recorded a demo tape that was turned down by Dolton Records (a subsidiary of Liberty Records). So, with the help of Don Wilson's mother, they formed their own record company, Blue Horizon Records, and recorded their first 45, containing "Cookies and Coke" and "The Real McCoy." The two vocal songs didn't do well, however.

By this time, they had met Nokie Edwards, who was then a bass player, and Skip Moore, a local drummer, and The Ventures were born. The quartet went into the studio and, in 1960, recorded a rock and roll version of "Walk, Don't Run," a song they had heard on a Chet Atkins album. They convinced a friend at a local Seattle radio station to try their new record, and it was used as a lead-in to the station's news broadcasts. Soon, calls began coming in from listeners who wanted to know who had recorded the catchy tune. One of those listeners was Bob Reisdorff, of Dolton Records, who had turned down the group's first demo tape, and the rest is history. "Walk, Don't Run" became an instant hit once released by Dolton Records, and hit #2 in the charts, where it remained for several weeks. Only Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never" kept it out of the #1 position.

The Original Ventures
The original Ventures: (left to right) Howie Johnson, Don Wilson, Nokie Edwards, and Bob Bogle.

The Hit Years

Encouraged by the success of "Walk, Don't Run," The Ventures (now with Howie Johnson as their regular drummer) recorded their first album, which was also called Walk, Don't Run. It contained a mix of instrumental versions of popular tunes of the day and some originals. Like the single, the Walk, Don't Run album was a huge success. By the way, few people realize that the musicians in the background of the album cover are not The Ventures. They were on the road the day the album cover was shot, so some studio hands stood in for the group.

Walk Don't Run
The cover of Walk, Don't Run, the first of more 450 Ventures albums wordwide.

By 1962, lingering injuries from a traffic accident prevented drummer Howie Johnson from travelling with The Ventures, and the group was lucky to find Mel Taylor, who had played on such hits of the day as "The Monster Mash" and "Alley Oop." Mel became the group's permanent drummer, first appearing on the 6th album, Twist Party, Volume 2 (later renamed Dance with the Ventures). Early in the group's history, Bob Bogle and Nokie Edwards sometimes exchanged instruments, with Bob playing bass and Nokie the lead guitarist. In 1963, the switch became permanent.

Although The Ventures had 13 more Top 100 hit singles during the 1960s, including #8 with their 1964 surfing-styled remake of "Walk, Don't Run" and #4 with the 1968 hit "Hawaii Five-0," The Ventures' real success was in the album market. For their third album, they hit on a concept that would prove to be a key to their success -- themed albums featuring hits of the day and original songs that fit into the album's specific theme. For example, their third album, The Colourful Ventures, included hits that had a color in their title -- "Yellow Bird," "Blue Moon," and so on. One of their most memorable theme albums was In Space, in which they played way-out spacey tunes, creating all of the sound effects with their guitars -- no electronic gimmicks! The Ventures also showed their versatility by adapting to the changing musical styles, releasing albums over the years that featured the twist, surfing tunes, country classics, a go-go, funky rock, underground rock, swamp rock, "switched-on" classical music, mellow tunes by Jim Croce and the Carpenters, and even latin favorites, disco, and reggae. Through 1975, The Ventures had released about 50 U.S. albums on the Dolton/Liberty/United Artists labels. During the peak of their popularity, in the mid-1960s, they actually recorded as many as 5 or 6 albums each year.

The Classic Ventures
The classic Ventures: (left to right) Don Wlson, Mel Taylor, Nokie Edwards, and Bob Bogle.

Into the '70s

By 1968, lead guitarist Nokie Edwards had developed an interest in race horses and left the group. He was replaced by Gerry McGee, who had played background guitar for such greats as Elvis Presley and Barbara Streisand. The following year, the group added keyboardist John Durrill, formerly of "The Five Americans." In the early 1970s, Mel Taylor left The Ventures for a few years to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Joe Barile on drums. Around the same time, Nokie Edwards returned, temporarily replacing Gerry McGee.

The Ventures' last hit single was the theme of the hit TV series "Hawaii Five-0." The story goes that at first, the show wasn't doing well -- being up against "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In." So, CBS started running radio promos, but without any background music. A Hawaiian radio DJ decided to use The Ventures' recording behind the ads, and it was "Walk, Don't Run" all over again. Listeners began calling the station to find out who was playing the "Hawaii Five-0" theme, and it hit #4 in the singles charts by April 1969. The Ventures left the Dolton/Liberty/United Artist label by the end of the '70s and formed their own Tridex label. Up to that time, an amazing 37 of their Dolton/Liberty/U.A. albums had hit the Top 100 album charts. In fact, The Ventures are ranked 6th among artists whose albums hit the album charts during the 1960s and 26th all-time for artists with albums that hit the charts!

Since then, The Ventures have been virtually forgotten in their home country. They had a minor resurgence of popularity during the 1980s as they became popular with fans of punk rock, and they toured the U.S. extensively. However, they continued to have a fantastic overseas popularity that started around 1965, when they made their first concert tour to Japan. That popularity is attested to by the fact that: at least 20 of The Ventures' 35+ annual Japanese concert tours have been memorialized in hit recordings in Japan; for their 30th anniversary tour (in 1994), they did 107 shows during a 4-month period; they have released over 200 albums in Japan, including at least 10 albums of Japanese pop music; and Toshiba EMI Records released 64 of The Ventures' U.S. and Japanese albums on CD in eight boxed sets with eight albums in each set. [Unfortunately, these are now out of print and any copies still available are very expensive.] The Ventures are also renowned in Japan as composers, having been elected to the "Grand Prix" (equivalent to the American "Grammies") and are among the top 10 composers in Japanese history. The Ventures are also considered to have been the single most important influence on the development of Japanese rock and pop music.

Although not to the same extent as in Japan, the Ventures are also very popular in Europe -- particularly in Germany and Great Britain. In fact, it was from Great Britain that CD versions of many of The Ventures' LPs (both U.S. and Japanese releases) first returned to the marketplace. In 1994, Britain's "See for Miles Records" began releasing CDs containing the full line-up of two Ventures' LPs on each disc. Fifty-six (52) LPs were released on 28 CDs, hopefully with more of the rare Japanese albums to come. Almost simultaneously, the U.S. company "One Way Records" was releasing CDs with two Ventures LPs and three bonus tracks on each disc, plus a 3-CD boxed set of the five Play Guitar with The Ventures LPs! Forty (40) LPs were released on 20 CDs.

The '70s Ventures
The hip '70s Ventures: (left to right) Mel Taylor, Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, and Gerry McGee.

Triumph and Tragedy

1996 was a great year and a tragic year for The Ventures. Early in the year, they released another Japanese CD album, entitled Wild Again, and a single CD with three different mixes of the medley "Surf on Guitar '96." Both received rave reviews from the fans and, in 1997, both were reissued in the U.S. by GNP Crescendo Records. In April 1996, they were honored (along with "Jan & Dean," "The Surfaris," and "The Chantays") by being inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk for their impact on surf music. In June 1996, they began their annual Japanese tour, with 80 concert dates booked through the end of September. Tragedy struck, however, when drummer Mel Taylor died on August 11, 1996 (at the age of 62) only days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. As Mel would have wanted (they had never cancelled a concert because of personal reasons), The Ventures continued their Japanese tour, with Bruce Gary, a friend of Mel's, filling in for him. Eventually, Mel Taylor's son, Leon replaced his father as The Ventures' drummer.

The '90s Ventures
The '90s Ventures: (left to right) Bob Bogle, Gerry McGee, Don Wilson, and Mel Taylor.

Despite the loss, the band continued to make the world rock to their unmistakable driving guitar sound. In November 1996, they were honored by being invited by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC to participate in a series of concerts commemorating the invention and development of the electric guitar. Also, in March 1997 they played sold out concerts in Los Angeles and San Diego, and hit the studios yet again to record a CD album -- Wild Again II -- which was released by Toshiba-EMI in June 1997. In October 1997, The Ventures returned from yet another successful Japanese summer tour and then went right into a November 1997 concert tour of the U.S. West Coast. A U.S. East Coast concert tour was a great success in the Spring of 1998.

Into the 21st Century

The Ventures changed their main Japanese record label in 1999, from Toshiba-EMI to M&I Records. Under the M&I label, they have continued to produce an excellent collection of new studio albums, live concert recordings, and a collection of re-recordings of classic Ventures tracks in a series called V-Gold. The V-Gold CDs bring these classic tunes up to the recording standard of the 21st Century and also give The Ventures control of songs that otherwise would remain under the complete control of EMI -- the parent company of their original Dolton/Liberty/United Artists labels. In February 2003, The Ventures teamed up with fellow instrumental rockers "Los Straitjackets" for a concert cruise from Los Angeles to Baja, Mexico and back. Hundreds of fans were among the passengers on the luxury cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy for four days of concerts, music labs, and jam sessions with the two bands. The cruise was such a success that another is already being planned for Fall 2003. In April 2004, The Ventures were among 156 individuals and organizations honored by the government of Japan for having contributed to the development of Japanese culture (namely Japanese "pop" music) and to the maintenance of the relationship between the United States and Japan. This was an unprecedented honor for any rock and roll artists! Through the early 2000s, former lead guitarist Nokie Edwards has joined the band on recordings and live concerts as "Special Guest Artist." In January 2005, Bob Spalding, a long-time friend and contributor to The Ventures, joined the band in an official capacity as bass and (sometimes) lead player, replacing founding member Bob Bogle, who went into semi-retirement and stopped touring with the band. In January 2006, the Grammy Hall of Fame added "Walk Don't Run" by The Ventures to their list of the most influential songs in the history of music!

The 2000s Ventures
The 2000s Ventures: (left to right) Don Wilson, Bob Boble, Leon Taylor, and Gerry McGee.

Without question, The Ventures are and always will be the No. 1 Instrumental Group in the World and one of the most influential bands in the history of rock and roll! But one thing missing from their history until March 10, 2008 was their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- something that should have happened many years ago. At the induction ceremonies at the Waldorff-Astoria Hotel in New York City, The Ventures were introduced by John Fogarty, who recognized the immense influence that they had on him and other would-be guitarists during the 1960s. Ventures co-founder, Don Wilson, accepted induction on his own behalf and for the band, noting the role that his late mother, Josie Wilson, played in the band's earliest recordings. Legendary lead guitarist Nokie Edwards also accepted induction on his own behalf. Bob Spalding, the band's current bass guitarist, accepted on behalf of co-founder Bob Bogle, who was unable to attend the ceremonies. Fiona Taylor (widow) and Leon Taylor (son) of the late Mel Taylor accepted on Mel's behalf. Lastly, former Ventures keyboardist John Durrill accepted on behalf of current lead guitarist Gerry McGee, who was also unable to attend. Following the formalities, The Ventures performed perhaps their two best known hits, "Walk Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-0", the second number being performed with full orchestral accompaniment. Their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been a long time coming, but it helps to validate their standing as the No. 1 Instrumental Rock and Roll Band in the World.

It was fitting that this honor should come to The Ventures on the 50th Anniversary of the 1958 meeting of Don Wilson and Bob Bogle to form this new instrumental band. Tragically, however, on Sunday, June 14, 2009, co-founding member of The Ventures, Bob Bogle, died after a battle with a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Bob was survived by his wife, Yumi, and other family members. We take some small comfort in knowing that Bob is no longer suffering and that he will live on in our memories through his musical legacy with The Ventures.

Today's Ventures
Today's Ventures: (left to right) Bob Spalding, Gerry McGee, Don Wilson, and Leon Taylor.

The Ventures Member List

  Band Member    Instrument    1st Tour     2nd Tour  
---------------  ----------   -----------  -----------
 Don Wilson      Rhythm       1958 - Now              
+Bob Bogle       Bass/Lead *  1958 - 2005             
 George Babbitt  Drums        1959                    
+Earl Herbert    Bass         1959                    
 Nokie Edwards   Lead/Bass ** 1960 - 1968  1972 - 1984
+Skip Moore      Drums ***    1960                    
+Howie Johnson   Drums        1960 - 1962             
+Mel Taylor      Drums        1963 - 1972  1979 - 1996
 Gerry McGee     Lead         1968 - 1972  1985 - Now 
 John Durrill    Keyboard     1969 - 1972             
 Joe Barile      Drums        1973 - 1978             
 Leon Taylor     Drums        1996 - Now              
 Bob Spalding    Bass/Lead    2005 - Now              
Notes: *    - Bob Bogle originally played Lead Guitar                        
       **   - Nokie Edwards originally played Bass Guitar                    
       **   - From 1999 to early 2012 Nokie appeared as a "Special Guest"    
       ***  - Played Drums on the original "Walk Don't Run/The McCoy" single 
       +    - Deceased                                                       

Honors Received by The Ventures

The Ventures: Inducted into the Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame
The Ventures: Inducted into the Vintage Guitar Hall of Fame
The Ventures: Inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk
The Ventures: Honored by the Smithsonian Insitution
The Ventures: Honored by Seattle's Experience Music Project Museum
The Ventures: Honored by Japan's "Grand Prix" Music Academy
The Ventures: Honored by Japan for Enhancing Japanese-American Relations
The Ventures: Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The Ventures: Honored with "Order of the Rising Sun" award by the Emperor of Japan
"Walk Don't Run": Honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame "Walk Don't Run": Inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame
Gerry McGee: Inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame Gerry McGee: Inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Bob Bogle: Inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Nokie Edwards: Inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Nokie Edwards: Inducted into the Native American Hall of Fame

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Last Updated: May 10, 2012