Though often associated with the early '60s instrumental surf music craze, The Ventures weren't a surf group. But through their career they cashed in on surf and just about every other '60s trend on their way to selling 35 million records.
Guitarist Don Wilson and bassist Bob Bogle were working the Seattle area dance circuit. Eventually, guitarist Nokie Edwards and drummer Howie Johnson joined with the group calling themselves the Versatones. In the spring of '60, they cut their first recordings including Johnny Smith's "Walk Don't Run." Their name was shortened to The Ventures after this new "venture" they were undertaking. Demos were pressed as the group tried to get a recording contract. While their recordings failed to impress local record companies "Walk Don't Run" did manage to get local radio airplay. Soon they had a deal and re-located to L.A. In September, "Walk Don't Run" ('60) was released nationally rising to #2 on the charts (beat out by Elvis' "It's Now Or Never").
The Ventures spent the '60s moving from style to style recording everything from surf to psychedelic. They jumped on "The Twist" dance fad. Partnered with M.O.R. singer Bobby Vee. Recorded a Christmas album. They even put together an album of T.V. themes. In '69 Edwards left to pursue a solo career and promptly disappeared. The group faired better. With Gerry McGee on board, they released their last big hit "Hawaii Five-O," the theme from the popular T.V. series.
It was a long time coming - and maybe only a few thought it ever would - but The Ventures were inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame (along with the Dave Clark Five, John Mellencamp and Madonna) in '08.
Guitar instrumentals may have been cutting edge in the early '60s but time hasn't been so kind. The Ventures shine by virtue of their clean, machine-like precision. "Walk Don't Run: The Very Best of The Ventures" captures the group's essence.