Don Wilson, co-founder and rhythm guitarist of The Ventures, dies at 88

Wilson was the last surviving original member of the pioneering instrumental group.

Don Wilson, the co-founder and rhythm guitarist of The Ventures, has died at the age of 88.

News of Wilson’s death was confirmed by his son, Tim, who told the News Tribune that the musician died of natural causes while surrounded by his four children.

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


Wilson was the last surviving founding member of the pioneering instrumental group, which is best known for hits such as Walk Don’t Run and their cover of the Hawaii Five-O Theme by Morton Stevens.

The group have sold an estimated 100 million records and were a blueprint for many instrumental guitar rock groups of the 60s and 70s. The group’s partnership with Mosrite also resulted in the brand’s flagship Ventures model (or Mark I) – which would grow to become an revered instrument in both surf and punk circles.

Wilson formed The Ventures in 1958 alongside guitarist-bassist Bob Bogle while the pair were employed in construction; they wrote songs with pawnshop instruments in their spare time. Drummer Howie Johnson and guitarist Nokie Edwards, who played the lead lines on Walk Don’t Run, soon joined the line-up.

Walk, Don’t Run would prove to be The Ventures’ biggest hit, both when it was first recorded in 1960 and later again in 1964 when the band produced an updated version with guitars parts inspired by surf rock anthems such as Dick Dale’s Misirlou.

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


Tributes from fans, guitar community and the wider world of music have flooded in on social media. See a selection below: