Here’s a parenting couple nostalgia lovers might enjoy: The fathers of surf music celebrate the Mother Road in Tulsa.
The Ventures, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band that recorded more than 30 albums in the 1960s, signed up for the AAA Route 66 Road Fest.
The “Mother of All Road Fests” began June 18-19 in Oklahoma City and will continue June 25-26 at the SageNet Center on Expo Square. Live music and classic cars (of course) will be part of the festival. The musical slate for the Tulsa segment of the festival includes The Ventures, which are scheduled to perform at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 25. For tickets and information about Route 66 Road Fest, go to route66roadfest.com.
People have been navigating Route 66 for 96 years. The Ventures are riding a 64-year wave. They will meet at the intersection of retro and cool.
Former Oklahoman Bob Spalding of The Ventures said in a phone interview that Route 66 has special meaning to him.
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“For us growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, we traveled Route 66 when it was actually a highway,” he said.
Spalding lived in Enid for a few years as a child because his father was stationed at Vance Air Force Base.
“I remember traveling from Oklahoma to California many times and traveling on Route 66. It was a famous highway back then. Of course, after that, it was right in the mid-60s when the TV show “Route 66” was airing. It has been an icon for many, many years.
The Ventures formed in 1958. A rock version of “Walk Don’t Run” (the song had previously been recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith and country pick Chet Atkins) in 1960 catapulted the group to stardom .
Spalding said the original members of The Ventures would have traveled Route 66 because they were “everywhere” in the 1960s, touring in a station wagon that towed a small trailer. He is not an original member. He came aboard in 1980, 18 years after seeing The Ventures perform in Japan. He was there because, as established above, he grew up in a military family.
Another current member of The Ventures is Leon Taylor. It is important for him to move the group forward because his father, Mel Taylor, was part of the “classic” formation of the group with Don Wilson, Bob Bogle and Nokie Edwards. Okies whose families migrated west, Bogle (born near Wagoner) and Edwards (born in Lahoma) are in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The four men of the “classic” formation died.
“My dad asked me to join the band in 1996, just before he passed away,” Taylor said. “So I’ve been in the group for 26 years. I was touched and honored to do this and put myself in his shoes. Now, those are big shoes to fill. I feel like I have an obligation to carry on his legacy and carry on the band’s legacy so that it doesn’t fade away.
It is an important legacy. The Ventures reign as the best-selling instrumental rock band in history. The group’s online site states that The Ventures are considered by many to be the biggest group in surfing. “While the style and music of The Ventures have helped define the musical genre as much as anyone else, they are much more than that. Surf is just a subset of what The Ventures are: the best-selling instrumental rock band in music history.
When John Fogerty introduced The Ventures at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in 2008, he said “Walk Don’t Run” (listed by Rolling Stone as one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs) started a movement in rock and roll: “Sound has become surf music and its audacity has empowered guitarists around the world.
Taylor said the original Ventures had a unique style and all parts helped create the sound.
“It wasn’t just about the lead guitar,” he said. “It wasn’t just about bass or rhythm or drums. It was a combination of all four. But melodies – for example, “Walk Don’t Run” – you listen to interviews or you listen to people who commented (on the song). Jimmy Page. Eddie Van Halen. All these guys tell you that ‘Walk Don’t Run’ is the first song they learned to play on the guitar. I think that’s a testament to what The Ventures have done in the music world. In the beginning, they taught people how to learn to play the guitar.
Backstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in 2008, Billy Joel told The Ventures that “Walk Don’t Run” was the first song he learned to play on the piano. The McCoys (best known for the song “Hang On Sloopy” take their name from the song that was on the reverse of “Walk Don’t Run”.
Spalding said The Ventures had songs that were accessible and young musicians could learn to play them, but the band also had songs that were complex and difficult to play — if you could play them.
“You kind of ran the gamut of what you could do,” he said. “But, at the same time, what the guys did when they started out is that I don’t think they realized that they had influenced a whole generation of young musicians. And these musicians influenced a whole generation of musicians. So it’s become kind of a generational type thing and we’re lucky in a sense that the music that we play and the music that we’re famous for is what’s considered persistent. They don’t forget those songs and they really want to keep hearing them, whether they’re 75 or 25.
People haven’t heard those songs lately because The Ventures haven’t done many shows since the pandemic hit. Taylor said 2020 was closed and The Ventures did a few shows in 2021. A return to Japan, where The Ventures are huge, is imminent.
Taylor said the Route 66 Road Fest “is really our first opportunity to get out and play this year. I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to come out in front of all the fans and people who aren’t fans who may have never heard of us and play for them. I’m ready. I am ready to play. So is Bob. We are all looking forward to hitting the road.
Spalding added, “If there’s anything we’d like to communicate to people who love The Ventures and the music of The Ventures, it’s that we’re re-emerging and reconnecting both in the United States and in Japan. We look forward to releasing and keeping the music alive, keeping the legacy alive and delivering new music. We just finished a new album for Japan. This is our first new album in two or three years. We are really happy with it and hope to be able to transfer the material from this album to the United States later this year. But we are delighted with all these things. The key issue for people who really love The Ventures and the music is that we’re still going there. We are still playing. We hope to see everyone start this year.
What the Ale, beer of the week: El Jefe from Renaissance Brewing and Mexican-style lager