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 legacy.


Nokie Edwards