Seattle’s Hard Rock Café was the spot to be Sunday, February 10, to celebrate Don Wilson’s 80th birthday party. In a private party held upstairs in the bar, hundreds of guests mingled with Seattle’s rock-n-roll royalty to wish happy birthday to the man who formed the Ventures in 1958.
In attendance were just about every famous rock star from Seattle. Besides original band mates Nokie Edwards, and General George T. Babbit of the Ventures, Yes drummer Alan White and wife Gigi came, as well as Heart founder (and Rock Hall of Fame inductee) Steve Fossen, with current band mates of Heart by Heart, Somar Macek and the superior Hendrix impersonator Randy Hansen, and friend AC Ice (AC Ice Hard Rock PR.) "Little Bill" Englehart of the Bluenotes was also there.
Legendary DJ Pat O’Day was there to honor Don as well as Mark Christopher of Warm 106.9. Merilee Rush was also in attendance, as well as Donn Bennett of Donn Bennett Drum Studio, The president of Music Aid NW, Bob Tomberg and his wife Shelley were there (of Shelley and the Curves), and Kevin Murphy of Classic Marketing Guild. Also attending was the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Washington, Brad Owen.
Son Tim Wilson hosted the event, saying he only had three weeks to put this together when “Dad said he wanted ‘everyone’ he knew to attend.” Don was in top form, happily greeting guests throughout the afternoon. At the “head table” was original band-mate Nokie Edwards, as well as their first drummer, General George T. Babbit, Jr. There was a huge banner wishing Don happy birthday, and several large birthday cakes. A buffet lunch was offered, and the bartenders were kept very busy.
During the dedications on stage, Don Wilson got up to thank everyone for coming, and joked, “All these women in the front row here? They are all my ex-wives!” as everyone erupted in laughter. After telling some other semi off-color jokes, he talked about some of the Ventures’ history, announcing with great pride that the Ventures have sold over “110 million albums” to which everyone cheered. He said “All of you are getting two commemorative CDs tonight in honor of this occasion, Don Wilson Sings, and The Other Side of the Ventures.”
Alan White took the mic and said “You tell some good jokes, Don….from back in the day,” and everyone laughed, but then seriously told what an inspiration the Ventures' music was to him. Randy Hansen floored everyone by getting up, with his sunglasses on, and singing his own lyrics to an entire version of the famous Ventures instrumental, “Walk Don’t Run.” He told the crowd, “Before Jimi Hendrix, before the Beatles, there were the VENTURES. They were my HEROES. This is why I became a guitarist!” Everyone in the room cheered and clapped. (see video below of the original Walk Don't Run!)
There were many other dedications, including General George T. Babbit, Jr. and Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, after which cake was served, and the Ventures’ tribute band, the Adventures, took the stage.
Friend Jim Watt was awarded a specially made Ventures guitar, which he proudly showed us. It was a very special occasion, one that will be remembered by all for years to come.
The Ventures made music history in the northwest in the late 50s and 60s with their instrumental music and amazing guitar work. Along with groups like the Wailers, they were immensely popular, with Walk Don't Run, Hawaii 5-O, and many other hits. They are still performing, and Don proudly announced that they've gotten another 2- year contract in Japan.
Congratulations, and a Very Happy birthday Don!
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