Don Wilson interview with Leticia Santi

Don Wilson interview with Leticia Santi
Posted on August 10, 2011 .

Back in February, when the group appeared at BB King’s in New York City, a young lady from Spain (currently studying in Italy) asked if she could interview Don Wilson. Her name is Leticia Santi and she came to the club with her mother. Don was happy to talk with her, and I will be posting my translation of the interview shortly. We will also link to the original Spanish version – so please be kind with my translation!

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The Ventures are an instrumental surf-rock band started in Tacoma, Washington, in the year 1958. Inducted in 2008 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their music was played at the funeral servicce of John Belushi, and creators/authors of more than 100 million records sold, the band which is still active today, has offered unforgettable themes like ‘Hawaii Five-0’, ‘Wipeout’ and ‘Walk Don’t Run’, the song that brought them fame.

In the Big Apple, on February 23, 2011, in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Ventures, the group including the original members Nokie Edwards and Don Wilson, gave a concert at BB King’s Blues Club, with the unusual participation of Marky Ramone, member of The Ramones who, on this occasion, accompanied Leon Taylor on drums.

While the audience lined up, to avoid the adventures of the open seating, Lelticia Santi Rodriguez, graduate of the Cervantes High School in Rome, was able to go ‘backstage’ to inverview the very gracious Don Wilson, founding member of the band.

1. How did all this start?

Bob and I were working construction, and we had a lot of free time so we bought some cheap guitars and, as we already knew a few chords, we were able to play them: little by little, we learned more and, with time, we added more members to the group – Nokie, Mel and Gerry.

2. How did The Versatones become The Ventures?

The truth is that we changed our names several times: The Versatones meant two people each one working with the other, meaning, they are able to trade roles. We traded ideas among the group to try to come up with the perfect name … until my mother suggested ‘The Ventures’ which signified something new which is what we were, because we wanted to be known as an instrumental group at a time when people expected lyrics. We were competing with The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed … but here we are after so many years.

3. Well known people like George Harrison, Keith Moon and Jimmy Page – they have cited your as an influence. Who inspired you when you first started?

The simple melodies of Duane Eddy.

4. What did you think of Woodstock, and why didn’t you participate?

We did not feel ourselves identifying with that type of audience – we didn’t smoke (pot) or drink – and besides, at that time, we were very much occupied touring Japan where, even today, we continue to enjoy great success.

5. You have had 21 number one hits in Japan. What about the 1962 tour there?

First of all, we introduced the electric guitar [to Japan]. Ii think we had so much success because we were an instrumental band, and had no language barrier to contend wiith. We feel very much connected with the Japanese people, and we have even composed Japanese ‘folk’ music (enka) for them.

6. You have participated in the sounds tracks for Hawaii Five-O, Dirty Dancing, James Bond and Pulp Fiction. Can you give me some thoughts about your experiences in the movie field.

We heard that we were in the soundtrack for Pulp Fiction by sheer chance, because of a friend who told us about it 3 months after the film was released. We were paid a lot of money for the writers’ royalties, but it had no influence at all on our career, like Hawaii Five-O did: at least we had the satisfaction of knowing that Quentin Tarantino was an admirer of ours, and owned all our records.

My very sincere thanks to Fiona Taylor, manager of the band and wife of the deceased Mel Taylor, who made this interview possible. As this interview happened before the earthquake in Japan, the members of the band want to pass on their condolences.

Translated by Fiona Taylor, with a lot of help from Indira Falla.

Category: Music