Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, January 29, 1999

Blue Horizon
The Ventures, from left: Bob Bogle,
Gerry McGee, Bruce Gary and Don Wilson.

New Ventures

The band that gave us
'Hawaii Five-0' keeps
the music coming

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


IT didn't take Bob Bogle and Don Wilson much time on the job to decide that there had to be an easier way to make a living. Bogle was a brick layer. Wilson carried the bricks. They agreed that lifting "nothing heavier than a guitar pick" sounded much better than manual labor. The fact that neither of them played was incidental. They found guitars in a pawn shop, bought chord books, organized a band and started their own Blue Horizon record label. Barely a year later they hit No. 2 of the Billboard Hot 100 with "Walk Don't Run."

Forty years later, the Ventures still rock.

"We just happened to have a natural style which became the Ventures' sound. It's like buying a lottery ticket if you win -- and we did," Wilson said. The Ventures' newest album, "New Depths," is as good as anything they've done since "Walk Don't Run" and their landmark 1963 album, "The Ventures Play 'Telstar,' 'The Lonely Bull.' " There's a great lesson there, too.

"We were right in the middle of doing an album and I heard 'Telstar' before it hit the charts. It could have died without ever charting, so recording it was a gamble, but we did and it didn't." The Ventures had their first gold album.

The founding members were guitarists Bogle and Wilson, bassist Nokie Edwards and drummer Howie Johnson.

Johnson was injured in an auto

accident and replaced by Mel Taylor in 1961. The 1999 roster is Bogle, Wilson, Gerry McGee and Leon (son of Mel) Taylor.

Info Box No look back at the Ventures' music would be complete without mentioning their big hit of 1969, "Hawaii Five-O." The song is an anomaly twice-over. Not only does it not have the classic Ventures' guitar sound, but their recording was never part of the TV soundtrack. The 30-second track heard at the start of the show was recorded by the writer of the piece.

"It did have a guitar on top of the melody," Wilson says of the first point. He adds the group scored the hit almost by default, but it was a long time coming.

The writer had no plans to make a single out of "Hawaii Five-O" -- "but an engineer at CBS thought it would be a good idea to record it and so did we. The nature of the song demanded that it have brass and whatever else, so we did a full version of it with about 35 pieces (behind us). The show didn't have good ratings at first and the song wasn't a hit 'til seven months after we recorded it."

Thirty years later, the Ventures and "Hawaii Five-0" are still going strong.

"We go Japan each summer and do 80 shows a year there, but the last time we played Hawaii was with the Monkees. I don't know why we haven't played Hawaii more recently, but it would be easy to do a couple of shows."

New Depths, The Ventures (GNP-Crescendo)

’60s band still rocks

AT a time when many artists from the '50s and '60s are now working as oldies-revue acts on the strength of their past glories, the Ventures are rocking toward the millennium at full force.

The band's new album includes originals, remakes and some relatively obscure guitar-band classics -- notably "Cry for a Shadow," the only John Lennon-George Harrison song the Beatles recorded. Fans of classic surf-guitar and '60s guitar-band music will find many other obscurities revived and recharged

Remakes of "I Fought the Law" and "Peter Gunn" are likewise deftly reworked as Ventures' material.

A previously unreleased recording of the Surfari's "Wipeout" (here, it's "Wipeout 2017") adds a bit of history to the collection. It was recorded with the late Mel Taylor on drums. Taylor, the band's second drummer, played with them through most of the '60s.

Contemporary guests include Duane Eddy sitting in on "I Fought the Law," and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter guesting on "Peter Gunn." Guest bassist Larry "The Mole" Taylor adds the ambience of another great act from years gone, Canned Heat.

A guest vocal spot by the Rice Girls is an obvious concession to the Ventures' Japanese fans, but fits in anyway. So does the Ventures' take on "Axel F./Miami Vice," post-'60s hits reworked without losing the ambiance of the originals.

Song-by-song performance credits and annotation make this disc an excellent introduction -- or reintroduction -- to the Ventures and their music.

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