The Ventures and drums

The Ventures were an instrumental rock group from the days of my youth who were known for their up-tempo, driving, pulsating beats that gave special prominence to drummers. They were one of the few purely instrumental rock bands that had an extended successful career, the British group The Shadows being another one.

Here are two examples. One is the tune Wipe Out.

In the other, where they play the theme from the TV show Hawaii Five-O, they have the unusual feature of two sets of drums that accentuated the beat even more.


  1. Mike Haubrich says

    In high school, one of the bands I was in played Wipeout – with two drummers. We had mostly only gotten together to jam and use illicit mind-altering chemicals, but when we slid into Wipeout during one of our jams it sounded pretty good and so we decided to enter the talent contest. We played that one straight, but the only prize we were liable to earn was Loudest Band. It did sound pretty good, I thought.

  2. clamboy says

    The Ventures implies awesome. For what very little this is worth, the Butthole Surfers were a two-drummer band (brother and sister, I believe) for at least some time. I saw them in Chicago in 1985, and the effect of the double-thumping was quite powerful, musically and physically.

  3. Brent says

    The Hawaii 5-0 clip that you presented in this post is an unusual configuration for The Ventures. The drummer on the right is Mel Taylor, the original drummer for The Ventures.

    The second drummer, the one in the lighter colored Hawaiian shirt, is Max Weinberg, who has been the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band from the beginning. Weinberg was also the drummer and band leader for the band on the Conan O’Brien show when it was shot in NYC. You can tell that the two drummers are not used to playing together because they are spending so much time watching each other to stay in time. I would estimate that this video was shot in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when Springsteen was in his first wave of world popularity.

    The Grateful Dead is another band that has used two drummers extensively — Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann.

  4. miles says

    Woo! Ventures! Seems like there are/were quite a few all instrumental bands – one of my pandora stations is filled with instrumental surf – though I have no idea how popular most bands got in general (probably not in the “extended successful career” category)… but there’s a plethora of material if you like the genre, much of it newer oddly enough. e.g. Mermen, Man or Astro Man

  5. A Hermit says

    Keeping the spirit alive…Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet

  6. No One says


    My band opened up for them in the ’80s (one night only). They were the coolest cats EVER. They didn’t even sweat.

  7. MNb says

    In that case you probably will like the pyrotechnics of the Tielman Brothers as well:

    Watch the fingers of frontman Andy Tielman.
    Given how conservative The Netherlands were back in 1960 you perhaps can imagine that the cultural elite thought the band a scandal.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Wow, that must have been a great experience. They did look like a laid-back group, except for the drummers who must have been exhausted after every performance.

  9. Mano Singham says

    Yes, I noticed that the two drummers kept looking at each other. I was wondering if that was common because it must be hard for two drummers to be in sync since one of them even going slightly off would be noticeable.

  10. DonDueed says

    Two other great instrumental bands worthy of mention:

    Booker T and the MGs – bluesy rock and R&B from the 1960s on. Several band members played sessions for many of the great Memphis R&B recordings, and were later part of the Blues Brothers band.

    The Meters – New Orleans funk rock. A band that had much greater influence than commercial success. Their earliest work was all instrumental, but later albums had vocals. They cross-fertilized several better-known bands such as the Neville Brothers and Dr. John, but their own stuff is well worth seeking out. They’re still around, now going by the name The Funky Meters.

    Neither of these bands had the same sort of driving beat as The Ventures, but they were both very rhythmical in their own way.

  11. DonDueed says

    The Allman Brothers Band also used two drummers in their heyday. It’s a distinctive sound, in a way that I’ve never quite been able to describe. It gives the rhythm section a sort of reverb-y quality, I think, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story.

  12. 2up2down2furious says

    Having two drummers can be great for really heavy music. The Melvins and Kylesa have both used two drummers at different points of their career to great effect.

  13. left0ver1under says

    Aside from isolated and massively talented individuals like Jeff Beck, rock bands that played solely or mostly instrumental music lost widespread popularity at almost the same time that the Jazz era came to an end. I have always wondered if that was coincidental or directly related.

    Generally speaking from experience, people who are willing to work to listen to music are people who appreciate music that requires more technical skill to play, and vice versa. Those who seek superficial music and image aren’t willing to make the effort to listen to more complex compositions.

    Joe Satriani is really the only musician since the 1960s whose career is predominantly instrumental and has had mainstream success both on the pop charts and in record sales, not counting house and dance music scenes.

    “Surfing With The Alien”, title track from his platinum selling 1987 album:

    “If I Could Fly”, Satriani’s instrumental which was plagiarized by the untalented group Coldplay:

    Many high profile bands could have played solely instrumental music and had success but chose to make vocal-based music (e.g. Kraftwerk, most Prog Rock bands, etc.).

  14. Jenora Feuer says

    A friend of mine, Mick Collins, leads the Dirtbombs, a Detroit band. The usual setup for the Dirtbombs is Mick on lead guitar, two bass guitars to either side, and two drum sets behind him.

    Yeah, they’re loud.

  15. MNb says

    “people who are willing to work to listen to music are people who appreciate music that requires more technical skill to play,”
    Of course there is at least another option: listening to music where skills are in service of what is expressed. That’s the kind I prefer, which is why Satriani like most of the guitar heroes who emerged in the 80’s leaves me rather cold.

    “Joe Satriani is really the only musician ….”
    While this is correct I can’t but point out that Ritchie Blackmore has recorded several instrumentals since at least 1980 (Weiss Heim, a B-side of a hit single).

  16. Skip White says

    Dick Dale is in his 70’s and I think he’s still playing. King of the Surf Guitar, indeed.

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