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UPDATED: The Ventures' surf guitar legend jams at Melody Ranch

Nokie Edwards joins Renaud Veluzat on the front porch

Posted: April 26, 2009 10:01 a.m.
Updated: April 27, 2009 5:40 p.m.

Rock instrumental guitar pioneer Nokie Edwards (foreground) plays a set of rock instrumentals backed by Renaud Veluzat (rhythm guitar) and Paul Veluzat (drums) at Melody Ranch Sunday afternoon.

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You didn’t find Nokie Edwards in the official program for the 2009 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, but the legendary guitarist and founding member of pioneering surf/rock instrumental band The Ventures played a handful of informal gigs Saturday and Sunday at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.

Ranch owners Renaud and Andre Veluzat invited their longtime friend and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee to set up a booth packed with his CDs, T-shirts, posters and other merchandise outside the ranch’s movie memorabilia museum.

Edwards, who lives with his wife near Yuma, Ariz., also brought his axe, and he was ready to play.

With Renaud Veluzat pinning down the rhythm on the Hitchhiker electric guitar Edwards made for him about five years ago, and Andre Veluzat’s son Paul playing a small drum kit, Edwards performed a half-dozen half-hour sets during the weekend. He showed he still has the technique, style and taste that helped make him an icon to guitarists worldwide.

The sets included versions of "Misty," "Wipe Out," "Secret Agent Man," "Hawaii Five-O," "Pipeline" and of course the smash hit that launched The Ventures in 1960, "Walk Don’t Run."

Each performance started with a small crowd which grew as the sets progressed to between 20 and 30 fans who gave the trio a hearty round of applause after each song and at the end of the sets.

Born in 1935 in Oklahoma, Edwards was playing lead guitar in the band backing country legend Buck Owens when guitarists Don Wilson and Bob Bogle asked him to join a new group.

Edwards became a Venture in 1959, first as bassist but after two and a half albums as lead guitarist. He played on many of the band’s early hits, including "Walk, Don’t Run," "Hawaii 5-O," "Fugitive," "Driving Guitars," "Surf Rider, "Sleep Walk," "Let’s Go," "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," "Wipe Out" and "Pipeline."

Renaud Veluzat was a Hart High student playing in a surf band in 1962 when he met Edwards during a battle-of-the-bands competition at Pacific Ocean Park in Venice.

"We played all Ventures tunes, and we won." Veluzat said.

A guitar-maker as well as a player, Edwards founded the Hitchhiker line of guitars in 2002.

More recently, Edwards was a regular on HBO’s "Deadwood" series, filmed at Melody Ranch, playing one of the crusty townspeople in the gritty Western.

"Nokie and I played guitar every day between scenes," Veluzat said.

Now 74, Edwards is still active on the road and in the studio. He has his own country band and plays occasional gigs with The Ventures.

"We still tour Japan every year," he said.

"It gives you goosebumps," Veluzat said, describing the experience of playing rhythm behind Edwards on the front porch at Melody Ranch. "It’s the stuff we grew up listening to and playing."



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