Nokie Edwards, a founding member of the Ventures who helped create rollicking, infectious and influential hits in the 1960s for the guitar-driven band, including the surf-rock standard “Walk, Don’t Run,” died March 12 at a hospital in Yuma, Ariz. He was 82.
Guitarist Deke Dickerson confirmed the death and said that Mr. Edwards had recently been hospitalized for complications from hip surgery.
The Ventures’s first album, “Walk, Don’t Run” (1960), with Bob Bogle on lead guitar and Mr. Edwards on bass, sold more than 2 million copies, reached No. 2 on the pop charts and served as a touchstone for many aspiring guitarists. By 1962, Bogle and Mr. Edwards, the more skilled guitarist, had traded places. Mr. Edwards would remain the group’s lead guitarist until his departure in 1968.
Although arguably the most successful instrumental band in rock-and-roll history, the Ventures had a less-than-electrifying performing style. Their lone stage gimmick consisted of moving their guitars and basses in tandem, an action that seems quaint in retrospect. However, their influence on rock music — particularly Mr. Edwards’s nimble, melodic guitar work — was incalculable.
The combo entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 and inspired guitarists Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the second of whom gave the induction speech.
“I believe in simplicity,” Mr. Edwards once told the San Antonio Express-News. “If you have a melodic line, people will like it. If you can hum it, you can have a hit.”
That simplicity led to a remarkable run of charting singles that included a more aggressive 1964 surf remake of “Walk, Don’t Run.” While their twangy, reverb-drenched guitars and rumbling drums helped launch the surf-music craze, the Ventures did not consider themselves a surf band. They established their versatility on such concept albums as the eerie “The Ventures in Space” (1964), the mod-influenced “Wild Things!” (1966) and the psychedelic “Guitar Freakout” (1967).
They recorded movie and television themes — “The Fugitive,” “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” “Secret Agent Man” — and sustained their career with instrumental covers of contemporary hits. An original by Bogle and Mr. Edwards, “Surf Rider” (1961), was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.”
The Ventures also recorded several instruction albums for bass, guitar and drums, all with accompanying books. One such album, “Play Guitar with the Ventures,” managed the unlikely feat of placing on the Billboard album charts in 1965.
Their most enduring popularity was not in the United States but in Japan. They first toured there in 1961 and were astonished to learn on subsequent trips that they had spawned a legion of imitators.
“There are so many groups like the Ventures that they even try to call themselves something close to the name,” Mr. Edwards told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. “The Yokohama Ventures, the Venturas — anything to get close.”
Mr. Edwards had two tours of duty with the Ventures — during their initial popularity from 1959 to 1968 and from 1973 to 1984. In between, he lived in Nashville and pursued a career in country music. In the past two decades, Mr. Edwards performed with Venturesmania, a tribute group led by guitarist Dickerson, and toured periodically with his old band. He also acted in films, appearing in the HBO drama “Deadwood” as a mysterious friend of gunfighter “Wild Bill” Hickok.
Nole Floyd Edwards was born in Lahoma, Okla., on May 9, 1935, to a family of migrant fruit pickers who eventually relocated by horse-drawn wagon to Puyallup, Wash. He had 12 siblings, and many family members were musicians.
By 5, he was playing guitar and mandolin, among other instruments. He briefly performed with country singer Buck Owens before teaming up with Bogle, rhythm guitarist Don Wilson and drummer Howie Johnson to form the Ventures.
Guitar Player magazine once wrote that the Ventures influenced “not only styles but choice of instrument.” Though Mr. Edwards started out playing a Fender Telecaster, he later switched to a Mosrite guitar. The smaller company responded to the band’s success in 1963 with a popular line of Ventures signature guitars and basses.
Mr. Edwards also briefly had his own line of guitars, the HitchHiker. Fender would later honor him with a Nokie Edwards signature model Telecaster in 1996.
A complete list of survivors could not immediately be determined.
“My roots were in country and bluegrass,” Mr. Edwards told the San Antonio newspaper. “It was a trying thing to play rock ’n’ roll, but I thought there had to be something there because so many people liked it. I didn’t have much money, but I bought the top 10 records. Then I bought 10 more and got a couple of things I could get out of it. There’s good and bad in all music. You have to look for the good and see if you can play it.”
Read more Washington Post obituaries