Vintage Guitar - June 2018 - open - 19
over a year before joining a local group known as the Versatones
in 1958, which consisted of Don Wilson and Bob Bogle. Edwards
joined on bass and the group was renamed The Ventures before
recording their first hit, "Walk Don't Run," in 1960.
After a couple years as the bass player, Edwards and guitarist Bob
Bogle switched roles. The group knew Nokie was a hot guitarist
when he joined, and eventually it was agreed he would be an asset
as featured soloist. With him on lead and new drummer Mel Taylor
joining the ranks, The Ventures were essentially a different band.
Many fans agree that the 1963-'68 era represents the high-water mark
for the band, and Edwards' cutting tone (courtesy of their Mosrite
Ventures model guitars) along with his hot country-meets-shred
licks established him as one of the biggest guitar heroes of the time.
Though the band's biggest-selling singles came from before and
after Edwards' tenure as lead guitarist, Ventures albums in the mid
'60s sold by the truckload and inspired countless garage bands and
Tracks like "Journey To The Stars," "Diamond Head," "Slaughter
On 10th Avenue," "Walk Don't Run '64," "Driving Guitars," "Bumble
Bee Twist," "The 2,000 Pound Bee," "Ginza Lights," "House Of The
Rising Sun," "Caravan" and "Surf Rider" (the latter an Edwards
composition that decades later was featured on the Pulp Fiction
soundtrack) set the bar high, and secured Edwards' legacy as
one of the greatest exponents of guitar instrumental music. The
Ventures' Play Guitar With... series of instructional albums also
proved highly influential to thousands of kids in the '60s.
Edwards was an early experimenter with guitar effects, using
a fuzz device made by steel guitarist Red Rhodes on "The 2000
Pound Bee" in 1962, and creating a wah-like effect with a DeArmond Volume and Tone pedal on "Pedal Pusher," in '65. He was
also an old-school proponent of simple guitar tricks to entertain
audiences, such as playing the strings between the bridge and
tailpiece (this unusual sound can be heard on many live versions
of "Wooly Bully" recorded in the '60s), and pick-scratching against
the wound strings (heard to great effect on "He Never Came Back"
on the Ventures In Space album). It can also be said that he took use
of the vibrato to new levels, inventing the "dive bomb" technique
he used liberally on many Ventures recordings in the '60s (listen
to the Live in Japan '65 version of "Driving Guitars" to hear an
extreme version of this effect).
Edwards left the Ventures in '68, but returned from '73 to '84, after
which he would join them off and on over the years, splitting time
with guitarist Gerry McGee, and occasionally performing together.
The Ventures had huge success in Japan, where they experienced
Beatles-like admiration. In addition to releasing a host of Japanonly recordings, the group toured there for decades, filling large
venues. Edwards toured Japan as a solo artist during and after his
tenure with The Ventures, and last played there in 2015.
The Ventures were inducted to the Pacific Northwest Hall of
Fame in 1999, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006, and the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame in '08. In '93, they received the Guitar Player
magazine Lifetime Achievement Award. All told, they sold more
than 100 million records.
In recent years, Edwards had continued health problems and
was being treated in Yuma, Arizona, where he lived. He had been
hospitalized during the Christmas holiday and eventually succumbed to complications. He is survived by his wife, Judy, sister
Louise Jensen, daughter Tina, four stepchildren, 25 grandchildren,
eight great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. He
is interred in a maple urn made by builders at Hitchhiker Guitars.
- Deke Dickerson