The Ventures surf into Snoqualmie Casino

November 8, 2011

By Tom Corrigan

Don Wilson, a founding member of The Ventures, enjoys showing off the gold records and memorabilia he has collected in his Sammamish home over a 50-plus year career in music. By Tom Corrigan

There aren’t too many bands that can say they outsold The Beatles two to one.

There aren’t too many bands — if any besides one — that can say they have put out roughly 270 albums.

There aren’t too many bands that can say they have been performing steadily for 50-plus years.

Based in Sammamish just outside of Issaquah, Don Wilson’s Ventures can say all that and plenty more.

“We are the biggest selling instrumental band in music history, not just in rock ‘n’ roll, but in the history of recorded music,” said Wilson, who helped found The Ventures with the late Bob Bogle in 1958.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2008, the band credited with the invention of the surf guitar plays at Snoqualmie Casino on Nov. 11.

Wilson firmly believes The Ventures’ legacy is unlike any other. He admits when most people think of surf or beach music they think of The Beach Boys. The Ventures’ Wilson said Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was a genius with vocals.

But Don Wilson quickly added that The Ventures came first and just as importantly are the only band to really exploit and make a name for themselves with instrumental rock ‘n’ roll.

“Other instrumental bands had a few hits and then disappeared,” said Tim Wilson, Don’s son, of Issaquah.

Besides running Wilson Brothers Guitars, Tim also sets up gigs for The Ventures and generally helps promote his father’s band and music.

The Ventures first appearance on the charts was in 1960 with “Walk Don’t Run.” Don Wilson said it took the band nearly a year to perfect the tune, which started life as a jazz composition in 1955. The Ventures’ version reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts. But the band’s reach and exposure didn’t exactly end there.

Among the public, The Ventures’ might be best remembered for recording the radio version of the theme song from the original “Hawaii 5-0.” Interest in the band sparked all over again when their music was featured prominently in the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction.”

If you go

The Ventures

  • 8 p.m. Nov. 11
  • Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom
  • Show is for 21 and older.
  • Reserved seating is from $15 to $40.
  • Go to and follow the links under “calendar.”

But the band’s most lasting legacy may be the influence it had on other big name rock guitarists. Players such as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton all have named The Ventures as an influence.

Both Don and Tim Wilson have a theory as to why, but The Ventures have consistently been huge in Japan.

“For one thing, there is no language barrier,” said Tim Wilson, again noting his father’s music is almost exclusively instrumental.

Don Wilson said when the band first visited Japan, there wasn’t an electric bass in that country.

“We introduced the electric guitar to Japan,” he said.

It was in Japan that the band outsold The Beatles. The Ventures had some 20 No. 1 hits in that country. In 2004, the emperor of Japan named them to the Order of the Rising Sun. They were the first group to be so honored. Previous to The Ventures, the last American to receive the award was Clint Eastwood.

With two surviving members, including Wilson, The Ventures still tour Japan every year, drawing in the neighborhood of 3,500 to every show. They went this year despite the devastating earthquake that struck just prior to the time their 2011 tour was scheduled.

“I think they really appreciated us coming over,” Wilson said, adding he knew of a large number of groups that bowed out of Japanese tours because of the quake.

Wilson said he did not see much of the destruction caused by the quake, but reached 33 of 50 scheduled shows.

At 78, Wilson didn’t say anything about slowing down.

“I still like playing,” he said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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