The Ventures first started out in 1958 as a duo between Don Wilson and Bob Bogle. The two musicians were playing small clubs together as a duo called the Versatones. The two musicians recruited Nokie Edwards on bass and Skip More on drums and eventually formed the group called The Ventures. Skip More skipped out of the group after the band’s first single was released. He was replaced by George T Babbitt Jr. who was then replaced by Howie Johnson. From 1958 to 1962 Don Wilson, Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards and Howie Johnson formed the core group of the Ventures.
The Ventures first album entitled Walk Don’t Run was released in 1960. It is one of three Gold albums the band released in the 1960s. The other two being The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull released in 1963 and the Hawaii Five-O LP released in 1969. If you intend on collecting every Ventures album ever released you will need an entire wall because the band released somewhere between 200 and 300 albums counting all the live records and compilations. They released so many records, it’s very difficult to find every release.
Over the years, the band has gone through many lineup changes. Many of the bands original members from the early years including Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Howie Johnson and Mel Taylor have passed away. Currently in 2018, the band is still performing concerts keeping the music of The Ventures alive. None of the current members, Leon Taylor, Bob Spalding, Ian Spalding and Luke Griffin were in the original band.
Our Top 10 Ventures songs list is a tribute to the greatness of the band. It was fun to listen to so many of their great recordings and pick our ten favorites. It’s simply a subjective list done in fun. We hope you enjoy this tribute to The Ventures.
# 10 – The Cruel Sea
We open our Top 10 Ventures songs list with the B Side go their big hit “Walk Don’t Run 64.” The great Ventures song “The Cruel Sea,” displays that incredible Ventures guitar sound immediately and stands as the perfect introduction to this classic band. The song was released in 1964.
# 9 – Slaughter On Tenth Avenue
It’s possible that this great Ventures songs “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue,” served as the inspiration to the title of Bruce Springsteen’s classic track “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” Springsteen has often mentioned The Ventures in interviews. Nonetheless, this great Ventures song was released in 1964. The song was issued on the Ventures album The Ventures Knock Me Out!
# 8 – Surf Rider
Continuing with our top 10 Ventures songs list we turn to the great Ventures song “Surf Rider.” The Ventures were often labeled as a surf-instrumental band, but any Ventures fan knew that they were so much more than that. Be that as it may, “Surf Rider,” laid out the template for the great surf instrumental songs of the 1960s.
# 7 – Wipe Out
“Wipe Out,” is one of those classic rock songs in which there are two great versions recorded by two different bands. There are many great rock songs in history that were defined by multiple bands. The Beatles and The Isley Brothers recorded two great versions of “Twist and Shout.” The Rolling Stones and Buddy Holly with “Not Fade Away,” Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix with “All Along The Watchtower.” were also examples of dramatically different artist having great success with the same song. The Ventures and The Surfaris both recorded great versions of “Wipe Out.” If we had to choose, we would go with The Ventures’ version.
# 6 – Out Of Limits
This one has always been one of our favorites. The song was originally recorded by The Marketts. in 1963. It was covered by The Ventures for their 1964 album entitled The Ventures In Space. How could you not love that title?
# 5 – Lullaby of the Leaves
“Lullaby of the Leaves” is a jazz standard written in 1932. The Ventures put their trademark sound on the song when they recorded the tune in 1961. The song was released on The Ventures album entitled Another Smash!!!
# 4 – Apache
The great recording of “Apache,” stands out as one of The Ventures greatest performances on vinyl. This one has a different type of cool attached to it. The western theme is easily apparent, but there was something else that made it even more interesting. A magnificent recording in so many ways.
# 3 – Perfidia
As we come close to the top position on our Top 10 Ventures songs list we turn to a great Ventures recording entitled “Perfidia.” The song was released in 1960 on the album simply entitled The Ventures. The song was released as a single. It became a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number 15.
# 2 -Walk Don’t Run” / Walk Don’t Run 64
The classic Ventures song “Walk Don’t Run,” was released in 1960. The song was originally written by Chet Atkins. The Ventures’ version was a huge success. The song introduced the world to the sound of The Ventures. The song came real close to awarding the band a number one single. “Walk Don’t Run,” reached all the way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. Four years later in 1964, The Ventures recorded an updated version of the song entitled “Walk Don’t Run 64.” The updated version was a top 10 hit for the band.
# 1 – Hawaii Five-O
The Ventures recording of “Hawaii Five-O,” stands not just as the best Ventures song, it has easily become one of the greatest instrumental recordings ever released. The song was written by Morton Steven. Hawaii Five-O was the theme song to the popular television series of the same name. The series Hawaii Five-O ran for 12 years from 1968 to 1980. The Ventures recorded the song in 1968 and released it on their album also entitled Hawaii Five-O. The recording was a commercial success peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It can easily be argued that it stands as one of the 10 most popular television themes of all time. It also is easily The Ventures most popular recording. A true classic!
Updated Dec 7, 2020
Top 10 Ventures Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2020
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