Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Oh, what a night!

By John Stephan

This just in:

Mike, I wish I'd sent this to you sooner, as tomorrow, March 10th is Washington State Ventures' Day. However, the story is as much about Don Wilson's 75th Birthday celebration. Here it is:

I received an invitation to the Venture's Don Wilson's 75th birthday party and a celebration of The Ventures' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Sunday, February 10th, at the Liberty Theatre in Puyallup. The musical line up was a who's-who of first generation NW rock and pop groups, including The Fabulous Wailers, featuring original members Buck Ormsby and Kent Morel. They've still got the sound which defined them nearly 50 years ago. Next up were The Fleetwoods, another group which has retained their original sound. Don Wilson spoke to the audience, told a few Sven and Ollie jokes, honored his mother, who recently passed away, and credited her for much of the group's success. Don is a friendly guy, and spent much of the evening talking to fans and friends.

The Washington Lt. Governor spoke about how he lobbied for a few years to persuade the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to induct the group, and to establish March 10th as Washington State Ventures Day. Randy Hansen performed next, playing the Hendrix material he's known for, some "Bolero", and a cool vocal version of "Walk, Don't Run", the Venture's first hit from 1961. This recording was a great influence for me, as to much of my generation of young guitar players.

The Ventures found a formula in adapting instrumental versions of popular tunes. "Walk, Don't Run " was written by jazz great, Johnny Smith. They tapped into, and then partially defined the Surf sound, with their great musicianship, and up-beat attitude. In the late '60s, their instrumental sound, without a language barrier, hit it big in Japan. Fast forward to the "Pulp Fiction"soundtrack of a few years ago, and you're pretty much up to date with a group which has managed to stay around in the big time for 50 years.

How did I fit into this gala evening? I got up there with Randy and played and sang "Happy Birthday" to Don with my $40 slide guitar, Elmore-rhumba style, accompanied by an Elvis guy, and Shelly's vocal group. Don and the rest of the crowd loved it!

Thanks to David Harris for providing great sound, as usual. I recommend the Liberty Theatre for any music function- nice acoustics and ambiance. Oh, What a night!

"Wipeout" by the Ventures - dig the matching blonde Fender amps!

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