Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Guitarists Pass On

Two legendary guitarists died recently. Huey Long was the guitarist for The Ink Spots and their last surviving member. Bob Bogle was founding member and the original lead guitarist of The Ventures.

Huey Long passed on June 10 at the age of 105.

Huey Long was born on April 25, 1904 in Sealy, Texas. His professional music career began when he was a shoeshine and occasionally emcee at the Rice Hotel in Houston. One night Frank Davis and his Louisiana Jazz Band were scheduled to play at the hotel. Unfortunately, their banjoist never showed. Long immediately went to a music store, bought a banjo, and filled the void left by the banjoist that night. He became their regular banjoist.

In 1933 Long switched to the guitar and even played with Texas Guinan's Cuban Orchestra at the 1933 World's Fair. In 1935 and 1936 he recorded with Richard M. Jones’s Jazz Wizards and the pianist Lil Armstrong and Her Swing Orchestra. He was not only the guitarist for Lil Armstrong and Her Swing Orchestra, but their arranger as well. Later he would also be guitarist and arranger for Zilner Randolph’s W.P.A. Concert and Swing Band. Huey Long would eventually be hired by Fletcher Henderson for his orchestra. Long made the move from Chicago to New York with Henderson. It was there that he joined Earl Hines’s orchestra. In New York he would perform with Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie before he formed his own trio.

In 1944 Bill Kenny offered Huey Long the position of guitarist in The Ink Spots. Long would not stay with The Ink Spots long. Eventually original guitarist Charlie Fuqua returned to the group. Long then performed with Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis’s Be-Boppers before forming another trio of his own. They would eventually be part of a USO tour that visited troops in Korea and Japan. By the early Sixties, following the break up of The Ink Spots, Long would form his own version of the group, before teaching music in New York. Eventually this would evolve into an outright music school. It was in 1996 that he returned to Houston and founded The Inks Spots Museum with his daughter.

Huey Long was a true pioneer in music. In Chicago in the Thirties, Long developed chordal solos--the direct ancestor of the guitar solos found in rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll. Indeed, if both rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll have an emphasis on rhythm, then Huey Long must be given the credit for that. He was a truly revolutionary guitarist and the best guitarist The Ink Spots ever had.

Guitarist and founding member of The Ventures Bob Bogle died on June 14. He was 75 years old. The cause was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Bob Bogle was born near Wagoner, Oklahoma on January 16, 1934. While young he moved to California, where he was a bricklayer in his teens. He later moved to Washington. A self taught guitarist, Bogle met another guitar lover while working on a construction site, Don Wilson. Together in 1958 they founded a group called The Versatones in Tacoma, Washington. Playing small clubs and private parties throughout the Pacific Northwest, The Versatones appeared on live, local television in 1959. That same year The Versatones learned there was already a group in New York by that name. The Versatones in Washington then became The Ventures. They recorded a single that year, "The Real McCoy" with Don Wilson on vocals. Unfortunately, "The Real McCoy" went nowhere.

It was following the failure of "The Real McCoy" that The Ventures observed that instrumental bands were becoming popular, noting the success of Duane Eddy, Johnny and The Hurricanes, and similar bands. Bogle owned the Chet Atkins album Hi Fi in Focus on which there was the song "Walk Don't Run (originally recorded by Johnny Smith in 1955)." The Ventures developed a simplified version of Atkins' arrangement that at the same time possessed even more energy than the first two recordings of the song. It became, if not the first, then one of the earliest examples of surf rock and established the style for which The Ventures became best known. "Walk Don't Run" proved to be a smash hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 by September 1960.

The Ventures would become the most successful instrumental rock group of all time. With albums such as The Colourful Ventures (released in 1961) they pioneered the concept album. They also had hit singles, including Perfida, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and Hawaii Five-O. Even after their success declined in the late Sixties, they have maintained a legion of fans to this day. They also led the way for other instrumental artists, such as guitar legend Dick Dale, British band The Tornados, Ronny and The Daytonas, and others.

As lead guitarist and a founding member of The Ventures, Bob Bogle proved extremely influential. Indeed, it would be the guitar style of The Ventures when combined with the guitar work of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and the vocals of The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys that would create the subgenre of rock known as power pop. It should then come as no surprise that The Beatles and The Who both counted The Ventures among their influences. They were also an influence on such diverse groups as The Beach Boys, Credence Clearwater Revival, Yes, KISS, and Deep Purple. Like Huey Long, Bob Bogle was then one of the most influential guitarists of all time.

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