Don Wilson, Who Made Adventures With Their Distinct Rhythms, Dies at 88

Don Wilson, co-founder of rock group Ventures, whose vibrating, hard-to-drive sound, fueled by his dynamic rhythm guitar, led to hits like “Walk – Don’t Run” ” and helped shape the early 1960s surf music and influenced generations of guitarists, he died Saturday at a hospital in Tacoma, Wash, aged 88.

His daughter, Staci Layne Wilson, confirmed the death.

Wilson and Bob Bogle formed the group that became Ventures in the late 1950s and enjoyed modest success performing in the Seattle area when, with Nokie Edwards on bass and Skip Moore on drums, they recorded “” Walk – Don’t Run” In March 1960. It was a version of a song by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith that had previously been recorded by Chet Atkins.

They released a 45 rpm record; they founded their own label, Blue Horizon, with the help of his mother Wilson, to do just that. But that first recording didn’t attract interest, and neither did “Walk – Don’t Run,” until they played it to Pat O’Day, whose afternoon program was on Seattle radio. KJR. He smelled a hit.

The station always plays an instrument leading the broadcast in the early hours, but doesn’t recommend it, Mr. O’Day said in an interview for “Sonic Boom! A History of Northwest Rock, From ‘Louie, Louie’ to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, a 2009 book by Peter Blecha. “So we put it every hour as a filler there,” he says, “and of course you know what happened after that.”

What happened was, callers flooded the station wanting to know what that fascinating record was. One of the callers was from Dolton Records, the company that had previously turned down the fledgling band. Dolton signed with Ventures, and soon the record peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on that chart for months and became one of the most recognizable songs. of the times.

The group went on to have several other successful singles, most notably the TV series “Hawaii Five-0” theme version, which reached the Top 10 in 1969. The slightly shuffled lineup – Mr. Bogle, person passed away in 2009, switch to bass; Mr. Edwards, who died in 2018, be a better player and become the lead guitarist; and Mel Taylor, who passed away in 1996, settled as a drummer. Mr. Wilson has been writing his rhythm accompaniment for 55 years, passing the job on to Ian Spalding, son of another current member, Bob Spalding, during a performance in Tokyo in 2015.

In 2019, the Grammy Museum hold an exhibition in honor of the group, calling Ventures “the most influential, best-selling instrumental band in rock and roll history.” The exhibition team says it has recorded more than 250 albums, including a series of instructional recordings aimed at beginners.

Leon Taylor, Mel’s son, is the current drummer for Ventures and has taken a close look at Mr. Wilson’s impact.

“Don has been a part of my life since I was a kid,” he said by email. “Don is a unique talent that has influenced thousands of guitar players around the world.”

Mr. Blecha also cited the group’s influence on those who would play guitar, as well as their chutzpah releasing the first records for their own label when no one else did, a rarity at the time. there.

“But beyond all that,” he said specifically via email from Mr. Wilson, “you just have to admire a musician who has made a lucrative and impactful career primarily playing the piano. rhythm guitar. Those who have accomplished that include a rather short list. “

Donald Lee Wilson was born on February 10, 1933 in Tacoma. His father, Woodrow, was a car salesman, and his mother, Josie, became a record producer and was key to the band’s early success.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to play the trombone,” Don Wilson said in an interview for “The Ventures: Stars on Guitars,” a 2019 documentary directed by his daughter Staci. “I think the trombone has such a soothing sound. It’s the Tommy Dorsey that I really like.”

He played trombone in an Army band, where a bandmate taught him some chords on the guitar, in addition to some chords he had been shown to by his mother. After regrouping, he was working at his father’s used car dealership in Seattle when Mr. Bogle arrived, looking to buy a car. They started talking and fighting.

Mr. Bogle has offered Mr. Wilson a job as a mason with him. They soon realized that, with all the rainfall in the Pacific Northwest, they had plenty of downhill time because much of their work had to be outside. And both of them had rudimentary guitar playing skills.

“We bought two guitars in a pawn shop in Tacoma, Washington, and we probably paid 10 or 15 dollars for them,” Mr. Wilson says in the film.

Initially the group consisted of just two people, Mr. Bogle playing the lead role and Mr. Wilson playing the rhythm. That, of course, led them to develop a unique sound, reinforced by Mr. Wilson’s driving method.

“In the early days Don had to play very rhythmically and strongly because they didn’t have a drummer,” said Bob Spalding, who first played with the group in 1981 and joined in after Mr. Bogle’s death, said via email. . “Later, when they became a quartet with a drummer, his style never changed, and that unique rhythmic guitar playing became a prominent feature of the band’s music. .”

In addition to their success in the United States (where their other hits included “Walk – Don’t Run,” a remake of their own hit that also reached the Billboard Top 10), Ventures became extremely popular in Japan – so Mr. Wilson says a lot of bands there have copied them. That led to a nasty surprise when the band made their second trip there, first as featured people, in 1965.

“We had an opening group,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1984, “and they played all of our songs before we moved on.”

At the time of his death, Mr. Wilson lived in Covington, Wash., in addition to his daughter Staci, his surviving family had three other children, Jill Fairbanks, Tim Wilson and Cyd Wilson; and two grandchildren.

In 2008, John Fogerty introduced the Joint Venture in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In his introductory remarks, he was surprised that the group had recorded over 250 albums.

“My God, think about it,” Mr. Fogerty said. “Today, some of us would be happy to sell 250 albums. ” Don Wilson, Who Made Adventures With Their Distinct Rhythms, Dies at 88

Fry Electronics Team

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