Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bob Bogle Story: Walk, Don't Run

The lead guitarist and bassist for a group I loved as a kid died today, Bob Bogle of THE VENTURES. Now, most folks discount the Ventures as two-hit wonders, but they were much more than that.

First, the fact that the leaders of the group, Bob Bogle and Don Wilson, were two friends who remained life long friends. Although popular in America throughout the 1960's, in the US during the 1970's they faded, and then regained cult status in the 1980's and 90's. Bogle himself toured with the band pretty much as long as it was playing until four years ago when his illness slowed him down.

Secondly, that's pretty damn impressive itself. He and Wilson picked up guitars in 1958 and by 1960 had the #2 hit on the Billboard Top 100 with "Walk, Don't Run". Damn impressive for a couple of masonary workers. There after, they scored another big hit with the theme to "Hawaii Five-O". Another of my favorites is their version of "Telstar" originally done by The Toronados.

Other than "Walk, Don't Run" and "Telstar", if someone wanted to pick a Ventures album to hear some fan-fricken-tastic lead guitar driven instrumental rock music, then one would want to get the "Hawaii Five-O" album from 1969, which features killer versions of "Galveston", "The Letter", "Spooky/Traces/Stormy" and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in" in addition to the well-known TV show theme song.

H5o is one of the songs that got me hooked on wanting to play drums in my youth.

The Ventures have sold over 100 million albums. The Japanese have apparently been infatuated with them from day one, and one source said their albums outsold the Beatles two to one back in the day. They tour Japan regularly and are apparently still enjoying a live touring career.

They came back pretty regularly in the 1980's, and I remember back then they were playing regularly at The Palamino in North Hollywood (NoHo), and I tried to get tickets to one of their shows and it was sold out weeks in advance. Instead, I went to see Billy Vera and his Orchestra out in Reseda, I think the name of the Joint was The Country Club but that's a long time ago.

It's not unusual these days in that we have scores of "old dude" bands touring and in some cases, recording. The Ventures were different, I think, in that they never really broke up, they kept on playing. I think the mid to late seventies were probably pretty lean for them, but they came back pretty well in the 1980's and thereafter.

There are so many old groups that had long ago broken up or retired that are back on the touring scene, in some cases chronically. Many speculate it's because they're broke, and maybe that's true, but you GOTTA have respect for someone that plays in a touring and recording rock and roll band for 46 years! Heck, anyone that does anything steady and decent for 46 years is some kind of role model.

This leaves Don Wilson, the rhythm guitarist, as the only original member of the band. Which is still together and still touring.

I think Mr. Bogle should be commended on his healthy ego. During the first few years of the band, Bogle was the lead guitarist. It was his crazy whammy bar work on "Walk, Don't Run" that impressed all of us folks who like great guitar work. But a few years later, the founding bassist Nokie Edwards told Bogle that his (Nokie's) talents were being wasted on bass and that he (Nokie) was a better guitarist than Bogle was. Bogle agreed, and immediately switched to bass and learned the parts quickly and then played bass at least until Nokie quit the band in 1968.

I'm not sure if Bogle stayed on bass after Nokie left in 1968. But the fact that a guy who was already a star and had a couple of big hits would have a healthy enough ego to switch from lead guitar to bass is damn impressive to me. I know A LOT of very good lead guitar players in several countries, some semi-famous and some just regular joes, who play many different genres of music, and I can only think of a few who would be able to subjugate their identity and ego and just basic "guitard" existence and admit inferiority to another player and switch to bass. Most would sooner commit Hari-Kari.

I've seen it happen one time and that was in a local band that went nowhere and that didn't last very long. So it is indeed impressive and rare that a founder of a band, who began on lead guitar, would happily bow to the superior guitaring of his fellow founding bassist and switch to bass for the better of the band.

That attitude is probably one very big reason that The Ventures have lasted so long.

On another level, it's kinda weird because Bob Bogle was just 1 year younger than my dad. I can't imagine my dad playing guitar much less being in a band. But I guess there were free spirits then like there are now and that the lure of rock and roll caught some oldsters way back when my parents were living the American suburban dream.

Shit, I guess of of these memories and Bogle's passing is just another sign that I'm freakin' old.

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