Monday, June 15, 2009

The Ventures’ Bob Bogle, 1934-2009

Above anyone else, Bob Bogle made me feel that I had made the "big leagues" as a music journalist. Ten years ago, I interviewed Bob and Ventures bandmate Don Wilson by phone for a story for The Rocket; they were to play a gig in Seattle, and I later arranged to meet them for the sound check and say hello to the rest of the band.

When I caught up to Bob that afternoon, he reached into his wallet, unfolded a piece of paper, and asked if he had gotten my number and address right when we had talked earlier.

Bob Bogle, rock 'n' roll legend, had my name and number in his wallet! I had made it! I told that story for years afterwards. The truth is, I was nobody special, but Bob made every journalist, fan, and fan/journalist feel important. In a band filled with the most gracious musicians one could ever meet, Bob was the nice guy. In a group of humble giants, he was the most humble. A guitar player's guitarist, he achieved a popular version of the American Dream: he was a construction worker with very meager beginnings who became one of the most-heard rock musicians in the world.

And now he is gone, and I am crushed. I knew Bob was very sick, and I thought this day might very well come, but the news of his death has hit me harder than I expected. Or I'm just selling Bob, and myself, a bit short. After all, I've been a Ventures fan since birth, and the privilege of catching a few minutes' worth of conversation with Bob Bogle here and there over the past ten years — well, that tops just about anything I've ever achieved as a writer.

I've enjoyed chatting and interviewing every member of the Ventures, but backstage, somehow I always eventually gravitated towards Bob. Everyone did. Mild-mannered, he was nonetheless a great storyteller, if asked. Before a show, he was often seated away from hustle-and-bustle in the room. Bob once told me, as he approached 70, that conserving energy was the key — in other words, he saved it for the stage. Oh, Bob had a sense of humor. I recall during that first interview how he and Don were explaining their decades-long relationship. They were best friends who never fought.

"We're not gay or anything," Bob added, "just best friends."

Professionally speaking, Bob Bogle was a supremely influential and very skilled guitarist, though he was more well-known for his bass playing and songwriting. He and Don, performing as a duo on that famous first tour of Japan, introduced the electrified rock 'n' roll guitar to that country. The two defined the relationship of lead-and-rhythm guitars in a rock band, and anyone who has ever caught a Ventures show could tell he enjoyed playing lead guitar — he would perform a couple of numbers, with Nokie Edwards or Jerry McGee switching to bass. However, Edwards and McGee were more accomplished players. So Bob simply became a great, great bassist, the band's anchor. A practical, humble man.

Bob told me on several occasions that he could never imagine retiring, could never imagine not being a Venture. And he got his wish. To my knowledge, Bob had spent time in a recording studio every year for almost 50 years. Amazing feat, amazing man.

I once prepared a sandwich for Bob Bogle, rock 'n' roll legend. I've occasionally let that tidbit drop ever since the first story got old. I think I will boast about both "events" from now on. After all, Mr. Bogle, a man who never forgot where he came from, somehow made everyone feel that they had made it, too.

My heart and thoughts go out to Bob's wife Yumi, the band, longtime Ventures manager Fiona Taylor, and especially Don Wilson, who was at his side for more than 50 years.

Photo: Bob Bogle, Steve Stav and Don Wilson, June 1998.

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