Rock pioneer Don Wilson and son Tim engineer guitars to capture classic sound

February 21, 2012

Don Wilson, a founding member of The Ventures, shows off gold records and memorabilia from a long career in music. By Tom Corrigan

Little did Don Wilson know that the $15 electric guitar he bought from a pawnshop in Tacoma in 1958 would lead to worldwide fame, more than 100 million albums sold and now his own line of custom-made guitars.

Wilson, a Sammamish resident and the sole surviving original member of seminal rock and roll band The Ventures, has partnered with his son, Issaquah resident Tim Wilson, to translate his band’s rabid international following into a signature line of Ventures guitars.

The story of Wilson Brothers Guitars is closely intertwined with the story of The Ventures — the meteoric rise of two 20-something Tacoma-area construction workers to superstardom in the pre-British Invasion 1960s, their influence on countless later bands, and enduring popularity in Japan and the rest of Asia, where The Ventures still perform to thousands of adoring fans.

Tired of working construction, Wilson and friend Bob Bogle picked up a pair of beat-up old electric guitars and set to practicing and playing club shows around the area. The band’s modest goals were quickly surpassed when they reworked Chet Atkins’ “Walk Don’t Run” into an instrumental surf-rock anthem. The song was a hit, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Singles charts and turning The Ventures into worldwide stars.

Read more

The Ventures surf into Snoqualmie Casino

November 8, 2011

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.

Read more

Legendary rocker offers hope for Japan

March 29, 2011

Japan ‘embraced The Ventures like no other’

The walls almost groan beneath a Fort Knox of framed gold records.

Inside a house on the Sammamish Plateau, amid a museum-quality collection of rock ‘n’ roll history, Don Wilson offered encouragement to people in catastrophe-stricken Japan.

Wilson, a cofounder of the seminal band The Ventures and a Sammamish resident, reached out March 23 to people impacted by the earthquake, tsunami and still-unfolding nuclear crisis in the island nation.

Don Wilson, of The Ventures (left), prepares to deliver a message of sympathy to be broadcast in Japan as videographers Holland Hume and Justin Peterson prepare to record several takes. By Greg Farrar

The Ventures, unlike perhaps any foreign musicians before, enraptured Japan in the early 1960s and have remained popular in the decades since.

Because the band is revered in Japan, NHK, the largest public-TV network on the island nation, reached out to Wilson to offer a message of encouragement to millions of viewers.

So, a crew set up cameras and lights amid the rock ‘n’ roll history, to capture a brief message from the unofficial ambassador to Japan.

Read more

Japan honors founding member of The Ventures

September 14, 2010

The Consul General of Japan Kiyokazu Ota (left), presents Don Wilson with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. By Gerry Collen

Don Wilson was just trying to stop all the heavy lifting.

In 1958, he and friend Bob Bogle were working construction and were getting tired of the manual labor. The pair went to a pawn shop in Tacoma and bought a pair of beat-up guitars, marking the beginning of surf-rock band The Ventures.

Within 16 months, their song “Walk, Don’t Run” had become the No. 2 hit in the country. After a career spanning decades, the band was honored this summer by Japan with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

“This award is from the emperor of Japan. I mean, how big can you be?” Wilson, of Sammamish, asked. Read more

This rock icon no longer a risky Venture

April 6, 2009

Don Wilson, co-founder of The Ventures (left), with his son Tim Wilson, of Issaquah, holds his award from the 2008 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. By Jim Feehan

Don Wilson, co-founder of The Ventures (left), with his son Tim Wilson, of Issaquah, holds his award from the 2008 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. By Jim Feehan

Don Wilson is celebrating 50 years of recording rock ’n’ roll — but don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.

In fact, the 76-year-old co-founder of the seminal rock band The Ventures is about to embark on a worldwide tour, beginning this week in Seattle.

Coincidentally, The Ventures and fellow Northwest band The Fabulous Wailers will release an album, “Two Car Garage: Fifty Years of Rock and Roll.”

Wilson and members of the Wailers spoke at a news conference March 31 at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel.

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