Nole “Nokie” Edwards, who played lead guitar for many years for the massively prolific, irresistibly influential instrumental ’60s rock outfit The Ventures, has died. A multi-talented performer whose interests ranged from surf rock, to country, to a few forays into the world of acting, Edwards was 82.
Like his co-Ventures (including founding members Don Wilson and Bob Bogle), Edwards has often been credited with inspiring thousands of young guitar players to take up the craft, thanks to his deft solos and playful explorations of the instrumental space. Originally the band’s bassist, Edwards convinced Bogle to switch roles with him just as the group began to take off to meteoric success, propelled by hits like a cover of “Walk Don’t Run” that’s frequently been held up as one of the great guitar songs of all time.
Edwards and The Ventures dominated the musical charts in the 1960s, releasing 34 separate albums—many of them complicated concept pieces—that managed to chart over the course of less than a decade. The band’s instrumental nature also meant there were no barriers to international success; even after the group’s American fortunes began to diminish, they remained one of the most popular rock bands in Japanese history, selling out The Beatles by a comfortable margin, and continuing to tour there well into the 21st century.
Edwards left the group in 1968, although he would return to them periodically over the years (including the aforementioned Japanese tours). His outside projects include an increased indulgence in his country roots, playing with a number of groups in the Nashville music sphere and earning Grammy nominations for Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel music in 2005 and 2006.
Whether working on surf-rock inspired tunes, covers of classic tracks, or experimental music, like 1964's psychedelic The Ventures In Space, Edwards was a pioneer of the modern guitar sound. For many young guitarists, he represented a considerable broadening of what his instrument could do; no wonder he was inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008, or that he and his former bandmates were often heralded as “The Band That Launched A Thousand Bands.”