TACOMA — Don Wilson, co-founder and rhythm guitarist of the instrumental guitar band The Ventures, surf rockers who helped put Washington state on the rock ‘n’ roll map, has died. He was 88.
Wilson died Saturday in Tacoma of natural causes, surrounded by his four children, The News Tribune reported.
The band’s hits included “Walk, Don’t Run,” and the theme song for “Hawaii Five-O.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
“Our dad was an amazing rhythm guitar player who touched people all over world with his band, The Ventures,” son Tim Wilson said in a statement. “He will have his place in history forever and was much loved and appreciated. He will be missed.”
In the 1960s and early 1970s, 38 of the band’s albums charted in the United States.
The Ventures had 14 singles in the Billboard Hot 100. With more than 100 million records sold, the Ventures are the best-selling instrumental band of all time.
The band scored the No. 2 hit in the country with “Walk, Don’t Run” in 1960.
Ventures founders Bob Bogle and Wilson were bricklayers when they bought guitars and chord books at a pawnshop in Tacoma in 1958.
“They were just really cheap guitars,” Wilson once recalled. “They didn’t stay in tune very well. But we wanted to learn.”
By the next year, they had formed the Ventures, adding Nokie Edwards on bass guitar and Howie Johnson on drums.
Johnson broke his neck in a car wreck in 1961 and died in 1988. Skip Moore played drums on “Walk Don’t Run,” and Mel Taylor took take over on drums and rounded out the classic lineup, with Edwards on lead guitar, in 1962.
The pioneering band’s rise came years before the careers of fellow Washingtonians and eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Jimi Hendrix and Heart. The Ventures were an integral part of the Pacific Northwest’s garage rock boom in the 1960s, alongside acts like Paul Revere & the Raiders and The Kingsmen out of Portland, and fellow Tacoma bands The Fabulous Wailers and The Sonics.
The Ventures maintained a sizable audience in Japan even after their popularity waned in the United States.
The band continued to perform through numerous lineup changes, but Wilson was the one constant throughout. He didn’t miss a tour until his retirement in 2015, according to the family’s statement.
Seattle Times music writer Michael Rietmulder contributed to this report.