Off The Press

April 6, 2009

By Jim Feehan

Jim Feehan Press Reporter

Jim Feehan Press Reporter

Rock icon still going strong after 50 years

Living well is the best revenge.

George Herbert, a 17th century English poet, is credited with the famous quote, but the same could be said for rock stars in their 60s and 70s. Last week, Don Wilson, co-founder of The Ventures, commemorated 50 years of recording rock ’n’ roll during a news conference at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel. Wilson, who lives in Sammamish, recently turned 76. He looks great, hardly resembling someone four years shy of 80. Perhaps it’s because he loves his work.

Wilson grew up in Tacoma, working in the brick masonry business with Bob Bogle.

In 1958, they bought guitars at a downtown Tacoma pawnshop for $15 each, learned how to play them, and 18 months later had a No. 2 hit on the Billboard chart with “Walk Don’t Run.”

They soon gave up the bricklaying gig to tour the U.S., appear on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” program and record more music. The band has gone on to record 250 albums and they enjoy a cult following in Japan, where they tour annually.

Prior to forming the band, Wilson was influenced by The Fabulous Wailers, another Tacoma band. This week, both bands released an album, “Two Car Garage: Fifty Years of Rock and Roll.” They’ll also play together at Seattle’s Moore Theatre April 10.

Last year, The Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with the Hall recognizing The Ventures as “the most successful instrumental combo in rock and roll history.”

John Fogerty, former lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, said the Hall of Fame recognition was long overdue. In his induction of The Ventures, Fogerty described Wilson and Bogle as “two construction workers with a dream.”

It’s a good thing they followed their dream. The band inspired a generation of fledgling musicians to learn to play the guitar, and The Ventures have delighted audiences for a half-century. And they don’t plan to slow down anytime soon as they launch a worldwide tour.

Living well truly is the best revenge and longevity has its rewards. Bruce Springsteen turns 60 this year; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, of The Rolling Stones are both 65.

Who would have thought during the tumultuous 1960s that Keith Richards would outlive John Denver?

Perhaps it was only fitting that the news conference was held at the Edgewater. The waterfront hotel on a pier over Elliot Bay is famous for hosting The Beatles when they visited Seattle in 1964. George Harrison and Ringo Starr wanted to meet Wilson and members of The Ventures at the time, but concert promoters vetoed that. The hotel even has a Beatles-themed suite. Other famous guests include Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

In the mid-1970s, my parents and my two sisters were visiting Seattle from Spokane and stayed at the Edgewater at the same time as Aerosmith.

They were taking the elevator down to the lobby, when who should get on the elevator at the next floor but band members Joe Perry and Joey Kramer, along with some young women who were dressed rather provocatively. My dad didn’t know who the guys were, only to say they were a “bunch of long-haired hippies.” He did, however, remember the scantily clad women. My sisters were gushing all the way back to Spokane, later telling classmates they saw Aerosmith at the hotel.

In 1959, Buck Ormsby, of the Fabulous Wailers, thought rock ’n’ roll would be passé in a few months. Well, rock would not fade away. Rock is still going strong after all these years.

Thank you, Don Wilson, for making this a better world … and long live rock.

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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