Letter from Mike Kuhn to Don

Letter from Mike Kuhn to Don
Posted on May 27, 2010 .

Many of you may know – or know of – Mike Kuhn. Mike has been a loyal Ventures fan for decades, and ran the US Fan Club for years, until unfortunate circumstances made it impossible for him to continue. A few months ago, he wrote a letter to Don – and Don was so moved by it that he asked Mike if we could post it. I have finally been able to get it together, and am posting it here.

Mike has brought back so many memories to me as well – I laughed a lot when he wrote about The Mudd Club in NYC – I was there too and it was quite an evening! The Ventures’ tours in the 1980s had to be experienced to be believed!

The Ventures’ members and extended family (of fans and friends) have suffered many losses over the years to cancer: Mel, Bob Bogle, Sonny Rivera, Gerry Woodage and more. We wish Mike well in his fight and hope to see him again soon when we come back East next time.

Dear Don ~

Well, Don Wilson, my friend and rock idol, when I first discovered The Ventures, I was only ten years old and thought Bob Bogle and you sounded so great. I find that you are so amazing, the way you perform and ‘flog’ your rhythm guitar, playing it like a lead guitar, especially with that great ‘ticky ticky’ or ‘tecky tecky’ sounds.

In 1962, my cousin, Rich Mahn, came to my house (where I am back living now, into the house where I grew up – my parents acquired this house and property in March 1960) and introduced me to The Ventures’ Surfing Dolton LP (BLP-2022 mono and BST-8022 stereo). I got hooked fast and then in 1965, I heard the melodic and driving Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, from the LP Knock Me Out and hearing that just knocked my socks off. In 1966, I decided to write to The Ventures International Fan Club on Highland Avenue, Hollywood, California. I became a pest fast, especially to your mother, Josie Wilson and to then secretary-to-Liberty-Records-president Sonny Rivera. I would send a typed letter about once a week and then started writing to all those Ventures fans around the world that had their names and addresses listed on the reverse (back page) of the fan club’s news letter. I eventually met some guys from my area, including Ed Gordon (NJ), Tom Baltaeff (PA) ~ I am still in-touch with these two. Our first fan get-together was at Tom Baltaeff’s house in Drexel Hill, PA in 1970. Tom recently had a Ventures ‘Fan Jam’ this past August, but I was in the hospital for a week due to Neutropenia (low white blood count), which has to do with my cancer and chemotherapy. I am doing better now but will always deal with my compromised immune system due to this cancer (Multiple Myeloma) and the chemotherapies.

I followed The Ventures and collected the group’s recordings 18 years before I got to meet you. That was at the Mudd Club in New York City, New York on 6/27/1981. In case you do not remember, you were supposed to perform at Bond’s (the former clothing store), but our group of four was told there were no shows that night. I called home from a pay home. My now ex-wife Barbara was on bed rest carrying our baby (Kristi-Lynn is now 28, was born 7/18/1981). Barb called California, getting the correct venue information from Sonny Rivera and called me back ~ the Mudd Club! We took the subway cross town, then almost walked past the place (there was no signage) when I heard someone calling my name. Who on earth would know me in NYC? It was Mr. Terry Delaney, the fan from London, England, with whom I corresponded and was the person who introduced me to The Ventures’ Hokkaido Skies (Kita Guni No Aoi Sora) on Liberty (black label) via Toshiba Records #1722. That song was so beautiful, it really blew my mind; I just never heard anything like that before. Little did I know (and eventually found out) that Ginza Lights (Futari No Ginza or Two on the Ginza) was also a Ventures penned ‘eleki pops’ (Pops in Japan) song.

In 1970, I started acquiring Ventures red vinyl LP’s from Japan. Golden Pops featured The Ventures’ Kyoto Doll (Kyoto Doll or Expo Seven-0). The Ventures came upon a special market and then wrote special songs and music for the Japanese market.

To me, Don, in case you do not know, The Ventures are so much more than a musical group. I say that because of the way you always responded to and treated me (especially Bob Bogle and you), like more than just a fan. Sonny Rivera, especially in the 1970’s and 1980’s, would send me copies of Ventures LP’s from Japan. I wish EMI Japan would reissue all the recordings, especially all of The Ventures ‘live’ albums (especially after 1975), on CD. That would include those LP’s on Liberty (Toshiba EMI) and UA (King) recordings. I wonder if those UA (King licensee) LP’s from 1977-1981 (including the Last Album on Liberty and Rare Collections, studio and live LP’s) are still controlled / licensed by/through King records? I know there are a few labels that could release the entire Ventures’ catalog of ‘live’ albums via a box set.

Over the past 2-3 years, I wrote to Bob and Yumi, just to give Bob moral support. I did not know how ill Bob was and I never expected an answer. When Bob passed away this past June, I was stunned and tears flowed. I was astonished when I read that Bob dealt with his cancer for ten years but only stopped touring five years ago. That’s just amazing to me. I wake up every day glad to still be alive but my ‘new normal’ is always, “How am I going to make it through this day” and always feel like I’ve been run over by a damned truck when I first wake up in the morning.

I know that Nokie, Gerry, Mel and you all did solo works, but except for the Bobby Leonard & the Explorers 45 rpm in the early 1960’s on Unity Records, I never heard of Bob Bogle doing any other solo work. Maybe that was Bob’s choice, but I would someday love to find out that someone found a tape of music that Bob Bogle did on his own. His lead work was always so extraordinary and so smooth.

I guess Don, all in all, I want to thank you all, The Ventures, for being the biggest part of my life. No matter what has happened to me, good or bad, I always have had The Ventures to fall back on and listen to. Thanks for 50 great years of music and continual great music. Hope to see you in Alexandria, Virginia at the end of January 2010.

Best regards, MICHAEL KUHN

email michael_kuhn2001@yahoo.com

Category: Music