NEW YORK (AFP) - Nokie Edwards, whose surfer-suave guitar with The Ventures helped create the genre of instrumental rock and influenced generations of younger artists, has died, the band said Tuesday (Mar 13). He was 82.
The Ventures' bassist turned lead guitarist died Monday after several months of battling an infection related to a hip surgery, the band said in a statement.
Emerging in the Seattle area in the early 1960s, several years before the Beatles would transform pop music, The Ventures are considered the best-selling instrumental rock band of all time, with the group estimating sales of more than 100 million records.
They are best known for the theme to the television show Hawaii Five-O, the song's jangly edge and rapid pace seeming to match the program's plots of police drama amid the waves.
The Ventures remained especially well-loved in Japan, a feat that Edwards attributed to the lack of a language barrier, with the Tokyo-inspired song Ginza Lights remaining in regular rotation in the country.
Born in Oklahoma with Cherokee roots before heading west, Edwards, whose given first name was Nole, had his start playing back-up on country songs before he met fellow guitarists Don Wilson and Bob Bogle who were forming The Ventures.
The group's energetic take of Walk, Don't Run, a song popularised by country star Chet Atkins, unexpectedly gained popularity on Seattle radio in 1960, leading to a record deal as the track rose to number two on the nationwide singles chart.
"We were shocked by it because we were all working day jobs. And all we wanted to do was to build our name so we could get a little more money," Edwards told Ultimate Guitar magazine in 2011.
Edwards became known for his Fender guitar and his pioneering use of special effects such as creating fuzz, first heard on the 1962 song The 2,000-Pound Bee. Fuzz would later become a favourite tone for metal guitarists through the use of pedals.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, The Ventures also found an audience through thematic albums.
Ventures In Space came out in 1963 as the United States was jumpstarting its space program, while other works included one with songs based on colours as well as a Christmas album that remained a seasonal favourite throughout the 1960s.