Ventures Guitarist Bob Bogle Dies at 75

Don Wilson's Ventures -- Keith Shoemaker on sax, George Babbitt on drums and Donald Wilson, Bob Bogle and Earl Herbert on guitar -- play at a Fort Lewis Teen Club dance in 1959. Their first big hit sold more than 2 million copies.
Don Wilson's Ventures -- Keith Shoemaker on sax, George Babbitt on drums and Donald Wilson, Bob Bogle and Earl Herbert on guitar -- play at a Fort Lewis Teen Club dance in 1959. Their first big hit sold more than 2 million copies. (File Photo)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bob Bogle, 75, whose driving, twanging electric guitar made the group he co-founded, the Ventures, the most successful instrumental band in rock-and-roll history, and whose recordings of "Walk, Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O" propelled the group to the top of the charts in the 1960s, died June 14 in a hospital near his home in Vancouver, Wash. He had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Mr. Bogle was working as a bricklayer and had, by his own admission, little experience in music when he played lead guitar on the Ventures' first big hit, "Walk, Don't Run," in 1960. The record sold more than 2 million copies, rose to No. 2 on the pop charts (behind Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never") and secured the Ventures' place in music history.

The band went on to record dozens of hits, including a 1964 remake of "Walk, Don't Run" that hit No. 8 and the 1969 theme to the TV series "Hawaii Five-O," which peaked at No. 4. The Ventures' rumbling guitars and thundering drums helped launch the "surf music" craze of the 1960s and exerted a strong influence on the Beach Boys, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival and guitarists Steve Miller, Joe Walsh and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When the Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, Fogerty said during the presentation that "Walk, Don't Run" "started a whole new movement in rock and roll. The sound of it became 'surf music' and the audacity of it empowered guitarists everywhere."

At the height of the Beatles' international fame in the mid-1960s, the Ventures outsold the Beatles in Japan and remained huge stars abroad for decades. They sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

"We couldn't go out of our hotel rooms or browse in department stores without being recognized," Mr. Bogle once said of their fame in Japan. "It was very strange to us. Cars would stop when we crossed the street."

The Ventures continued touring and making records -- more than 250 in all -- and for years everything they touched turned to gold. From 1960 to 1972, they had 37 albums on the Billboard charts. They recorded supercharged instrumental versions of TV and movie theme songs, including "Batman," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Secret Agent Man" and the James Bond opening theme, and made rock-and-roll versions of music by Bach, Mozart and Duke Ellington. Even a music instruction album they recorded hit the pop charts in 1965.

"We always like tunes with a little more substance," Mr. Bogle told The Washington Post in 1998. "Most things back then were made up of three chords, and I guess we were between that style and jazz, you might say. We were going for something a little more sophisticated."

After a decade of diminished popularity, the Ventures were rediscovered during a surf-music revival in the early 1980s, and in the 1994 director Quentin Tarantino used their snarling "Surf Ride" -- a tune co-written by Mr. Bogle -- in his film "Pulp Fiction."

At the other end of the entertainment spectrum, the Ventures' version of "Tequila" provided the background for a goofy dance scene in the 1985 Pee-wee Herman movie "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."

Robert Lenard Bogle was born Jan. 16, 1934, on a farm near Wagoner, Okla., and moved to California and later to Portland, Ore., as a child. He left home at 15 to become a bricklayer and began to play guitar. In Seattle in 1958, he met Don Wilson, who was selling cars. Wilson began working construction with Mr. Bogle, and the two practiced guitar on weekends and formed a band, originally called the Versatones.

"We both hated construction work," Mr. Bogle told The Post. "We really wanted to build up a name for ourselves so that we could make a living playing music around town."

Mr. Bogle learned "Walk, Don't Run," written by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, from a 1957 album by Chet Atkins. His 1960 recording of the tune, with Wilson, Nokie Edwards and drummer Skip Moore, became a hit in the Northwest before becoming a national sensation. They followed it with another 1960 hit, "Perfidia," which was a big-band favorite in the 1940s.

In 1962, Edwards became the Ventures' lead guitarist, and Mr. Bogle switched to bass. Drummer Mel Taylor joined the same year and was the band's rhythmic anchor for decades. Mr. Bogle retired from playing in 2004.

"I think our sound is unique because we're self-taught musicians, and that happens to be the way we learned how to play," Mr. Bogle said in 1998. "It wasn't something we tried for. It's just kind of an accident."

Survivors include his wife, Yumi.

Visit The Washington Post obituary blog Post Mortem at to hear recordings by the Ventures.

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