Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Godspeed Don Wilson of The Ventures

Don Wilson, the rhythm guitarist who co-founded The Ventures died at age 88 on January 22 2022.

Don Wilson was born in Tacoma, Washington on February 10 1933. When he was young he was a fan of country music-and-western music and big band music. He stated out playing the trombone, but switched to the guitar when he was the United States Army. He worked as a car salesman and a construction worker before he co-founded a band called The Versatones with lead guitarist Bob Bogle in the late Fifties. Finding that the name was already taken, the band was renamed The Ventures in 1959.

The Ventures' first single, "Cookies and Coke," was released in 1960, but did not chart. That same year their second single, "Walk, Don't Run" was released. It ultimately went to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album of the same title, peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard album chart. Throughout the Sixties The Ventures would have several single reach the Hot 100, and they would have another huge hit with their cover of the theme to the television show Hawaii Five-O, which went to no. 4 on the Hot 100. Their albums also did well, often peaking in the upper reaches of the Billboard album chart.

With the advent of the Seventies, The Ventures' fortunes changed and neither their singles nor their albums were charting. It was with the eighties that the band experienced something of a resurgence, with punk and New Wave bands acknowledging their influence. While The Ventures experienced changes in membership over the years, Don Wilson remained with the group until he retired in 2015.

As The Ventures' rhythm guitarist and the band's most constant member, Don Wilson was very important to the group's sound. He was one of the best rhythm guitarist in rock music, with a style that was direct and powerful and nunlike anyone else. It was largely because of Don Wilson's rhythm guitar that The Ventures became the most successful instrumental group of all time. In 1963 they had five albums at once on the Billboard album chart. The Ventures were certainly influential. They technically pre-dated surf rock and they did not consider themselves a surf rock band, but they had a huge impact on the subgenre nonetheless. They also had an impact on power pop, punk, and New Wave, as well as guitar groups in general. They pioneered both flanging and fuzz guitar. They ultimately had an impact on  bands as diverse as The Beach Boys and Kiss. In the end, Don Wilson was one of the most influential rock musicians of all time.

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