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Don Wilson, co-founding guitarist of instrumental rock trailblazers The Ventures, dies aged 88

Don Wilson
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Don Wilson, co-founding rhythm guitarist of instrumental rock outfit The Ventures, has died aged 88. He reportedly passed away of natural causes, surrounded by his four children: Jill, Tim, Cyd and Staci.

“Our dad was an amazing rhythm guitar player who touched people all over the world with his band, The Ventures,” Tim Wilson says. “He will have his place in history forever and was much loved and appreciated. He will be missed.”

A trailblazing instrumental rock group, The Ventures sold a staggering 100-million records during their decades-long tenure. 

The band was formed in 1958 by Don Wilson and guitarist/bassist Bob Bogle, both construction workers at the time. Drummer Howie Johnson and guitarist Nokie Edwards joined shortly thereafter. While the group remains active to this day, Don Wilson was the last surviving founding member.

The Ventures enjoyed a string of hits, most notably including 1960's Walk, Don't Run. The track – which was originally written by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954, and later adapted and re-recorded by Chet Atkins in 1956 – was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006 for its “lasting impact” on music. 

An updated version of the track was released in 1964, incorporating more surf-style guitar lines reminiscent of Dick Dale's 1962 surf-rock classic, Misirlou

The band's other notable tracks include Wipeout, Perfidia and their cover of the Hawaii Five-0 theme song by Morton Stevens.

The Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 by Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty. “Who would have thought that after recording Walk, Don’t Run 48 years ago, we would be going through this honor tonight?” Wilson said in an acceptance speech. “Not bad for two former bricklayers.”

Additionally, the band had a partnership with American guitar maker Mosrite, which yielded the brand's flagship Ventures model. This electric guitar later grew to become revered in surf and punk circles, and remains a sought-after instrument to this day – Johnny Ramone's Ventures II model sold at auction for $937,500 last year.

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.