The term “legendary” gets used too frequently, but it fits Nokie Edwards, who passed away March 12 at age 82. As lead guitarist for the Ventures, he inspired scores of would be musicians to pick up the guitar and start bands. Playing in many styles, including surf rock, the Ventures began touring Japan in the early 1960’s (as an instrumental band they faced no language barrier) and arrived at Tokyo airport for a 1965 visit to over ten thousand waiting fans.
Nokie’s fluent and cleanly picked leads on their signature Ventures Mosrite guitars were elegant and original but not so complex that they couldn’t be imitated. And imitated they were, as thousands of Japanese teenagers said to themselves, “hey, I can do that!” Their example helped drive the mid-60’s Japanese Eleki band boom and influenced guitarists such as Takeshi Terauchi and Yuzo Kayama. Every Japanese rock band owes something to the Ventures and Nokie’s guitar. One oft quoted statistic is that at a certain point they outsold the Beatles two to one in Japan ultimately selling over forty millions albums. Nokie had toured the country as recently as 2016. His distinctive playing will be missed.