Nokie Edwards, whose guitar playing in the Ventures helped define surf rock and earned the group a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died on Monday. He was 82 years old.
“Nokie Edwards passed away today after several months battling an infection after hip surgery this past December,” says a statement on the band’s website. “The Ventures family feels this loss very deeply: Nokie has been part of the Ventures’ history for almost six decades and helped to shape the early Ventures’ sound and the success of their career.”
The Ventures hit Number Two in 1960 with the propulsive classic, “Walk Don’t Run.” Even though the single was an instrumental, it was so successful that the band recorded a new version in 1964 that also became a top 10 hit. The band scored another major hit four years later when their brassy theme for the police procedural Hawaii Five-O reached Number Four. The Ventures released three gold-certified albums – The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull, Golden Greats and Hawaii Five-O – and at one point they had five albums in the top 100 simultaneously.
Edwards was born in 1935 in Lahoma, Oklahoma. He began playing a variety of stringed instruments at a young age. He connected with Bob Bogle and Don Wilson in Tacoma, Washington in 1958 and they went on to form the Impacts. This band eventually morphed into the Ventures. Edwards, who started as the group’s bass player, took over as lead guitarist in 1961.
Through the rapidly shifting pop landscape of the Sixties, the Ventures persevered and released multiple albums a year. Edwards tried his hand at a solo career, but rejoined the group in 1973 before leaving again in 1984. His contributions to the Light Crust Doughboys’ 20th Century Gospel and Southern Meets Soul albums earned him Grammy nominations in 2005 and 2006.
In addition to his music career, Edwards had an occasional sideline as an actor, appearing in the HBO drama, Deadwood. Edwards also wrote “Surf Rider,” which reached a new audience when Quentin Tarantino used the Lively Ones’ version of the song in his classic film, Pulp Fiction.
Edwards’ guitar work influenced a generation of players, including John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, who inducted the group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It is my honor to introduce the Ventures,” Fogerty said in 2008, “and every guitar player on this planet knows what I’m talking about.”