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Nokie Edwards' death at 82 in Arizona
from complications regarding hip surgery silences a major rock and
surf guitar voice, one that over seven decades, influenced
generations of rock guitarists. His fiery, passionate technique and
clean, precise country-inspired picking with the Ventures helped
define guitar instrumental ensembles for all time.
The Lahoma, Oklahoma native, born in
1935, began playing at age five. He performed on local radio at 12
and became a follower of both Chet Atkins and Les Paul. When his
family moved to Washington State, Nokie freelanced with regional
bands. Based in Tacoma in 1957, he met Bakersfield singer Buck
Owens, who'd settled there. Edwards worked with Buck until 1959, when
he met Tacoma rock guitarists Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, anxious to
form a band. Edwards became their bass player and with a drummer,
they became the Ventures.
All three loved the Chet Atkins LP
Hi-Fi In Focus. They seized on Chet's cover of jazz guitarist
Johnny Smith's "Walk! Don't Run" and in 1960, supercharged
it into an explosive rock instrumental. The single reached # 2
nationally, earning them a Gold Record and establishing the
now-classic Ventures sound.
Nokie took over lead guitar (Bogle
moved to bass) and performed and recorded with them for the next
eight years, including two more Top Tens: "Walk! Don't Run '64"
and "Hawaii 5-0."
It was Edwards
who in 1963, introduced Wilson and Bogle to Semie Moseley's
futuristic Mosrite solidbody guitars, which became the Ventures'
visual trademark and revolutionized the band's sound. His
co-development, endorsement and use of the
Mosrite--equipped with fizzy, hi-output pickups– created a unique,
never-before-heard sound. It didn't just
encourage Nokie to play in a new, imaginative way - it also
slipped the Ventures comfortably into the crunchier, more-aggressive,
Now-Sound of the mid-late 60’s.
He left the band in 1968 but returned
four years later and remained 12 years. Never abandoning his country
roots, Edwards recorded and performed with country as well as rock
acts and for a time, and built his own HitchHiker solidbody guitars. As
long as surf guitar and the Ventures' sound endure, so does Nokie's