Don Wilson, The Ventures’ co-founder and guitarist, has died

"He was a unique talent that inspired countless musicians"

Don Wilson, co-founder and rhythm guitarist for the influential instrumental rock band The Ventures, has died at the age of 88.

The news was first reported by Seattle-based journalist Saint Bryan, who shared a message from Wilson’s family on Twitter, confirming that the musician had passed away in his sleep on Saturday morning (January 22).

It was followed up by a statement from the family. “Our dad was an amazing rhythm guitar player who touched people all over the world with his band, The Ventures. He will have his place in history forever and was much loved and appreciated. He will be missed,” his son Tim told People.

Wilson formed The Ventures in 1958 alongside bassist Bog Bogle, when the pair were both employed as construction workers in Seattle. Two years later, their cover of Johnny Smith’s ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ reached Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100. The band went on to sell over 100million records and inspired the likes of The Beatles, Beach Boys and KISS, with Gene Simmons reportedly an early member of their fan club.

The Ventures are credited with helping to popularise the electric guitar in the USA and across the world, and are the best-selling instrumental band of all time.

The band were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008. “‘Walk, Don’t Run’ started a whole new movement in rock and roll,” John Fogerty said at the ceremony. “The sound of it became ‘surf music’ and the audacity of it empowered guitarists everywhere.”

Bogle died in 2009 of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 75 but Wilson was an active member of the Ventures until he retired in 2015. However, he continued to record with the current line-up of the group and produced the 2020 documentary The Ventures: Stars On Guitars with his family.

“Don Wilson, guitarist for Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame group, The Ventures, passed away this morning,” said his bandmates in a tribute on Instagram. “Don was an inspiration and mentor. He was a unique talent that inspired countless musicians like us. We lost a good friend, fellow musician, world class performer, and beloved bandmate. Don Wilson has left the stage. We will miss him always.”

A number of other tributes have begun to pour in for Wilson on social media. You can see a selection of them below:

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