The Ventures are an American instrumental rock band formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington. Founded by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle,
the group in its various incarnations has had an enduring impact on the
development of music worldwide. With over 100 million records sold, the
group is the best-selling instrumental band of all time. In 2008, the
Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their
instrumental virtuosity, experimentation with guitar effects, and unique
sound laid the groundwork for innumerable groups, earning them the
moniker "The Band that Launched a Thousand Bands". While their
popularity in the United States waned in the 1970s, the group remains
revered in Japan, where they tour regularly to this day.
Don Wilson and Bob Bogle first met in 1958, when Bogle was looking to
buy a car from a used car dealership owned by Wilson's father. Finding a
common interest in guitars, the two decided to play together, while
Wilson joined Bogle performing masonry work. 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.
After watching Nokie Edwards play at a nightclub, they recruited
him as bass player. Bogle owned a Chet Atkins LP, Hi-Fi in Focus, on
which he heard the song "Walk, Don't Run". Soon, the group was in a
recording studio playing the new song, with Bogle on lead, Wilson on
rhythm, Edwards on bass, and Skip Moore on drums. They pressed a
number of 45s, which they distributed to several record companies.
Later, Skip Moore opted out of the group to work at his family's gas
station. When "Walk, Don't Run" was recorded, he also opted out of the
royalties from the recording, taking $25 for the session instead. He
later sued to collect royalties but failed because of his prior opt-out.
Needing a permanent drummer for the group after George T. Babbitt, Jr. dropped out because he was not old enough to play night clubs and bars, they hired Howie Johnson
and, in the midst of a fast-paced touring schedule, recorded an album
to capitalize on the success of the single. The lineup of Bogle, Wilson,
Edwards and Johnson remained intact until 1962. The group found early
success with a string of singles, but quickly became leaders in the
album market. The Ventures were among the pioneers of concept albums
(starting with 1961's The Colorful Ventures) where each song on several
of their albums was chosen to fit a specific theme. Some of the
Ventures' most popular albums at the time were a series of records of
dance music. In the early 1960s "golden age of hi-fi", with the novelty
of stereo still in its experimental stages, the Ventures found their
characteristic style of recording each instrument in either the extreme
left or right channel, with little (if any) cross-over, enhancing the
stereo effect to its fullest limits.
In 1961, Edwards, a talented guitarist in his own right, suggested that
Bogle's lead guitar abilities were being stretched, and that they were
in essence wasting Edwards' talents by keeping him on bass. Bogle
agreed, and rapidly learned the bass parts to all their tunes, allowing
Edwards to take lead guitar. This move would prove vital in modernizing
the band's sound, ensuring success in an ever-changing market well into
the late 1960s.