Don Wilson, Rhythm Guitarist and Founding Member of The Ventures, Dies at 88

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Honoree Don Wilson of The Ventures performs on stage during the 23rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria on March 10, 2008 in New York City.
Honoree Don Wilson of The Ventures performs on stage during the 23rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria on March 10, 2008 in New York City.

Kevin Kane/WireImage

Don Wilson, a founding member of the pioneering surf rock group The Ventures, has died. He was 88.

The rhythm guitarist's family tells PEOPLE he died peacefully of natural causes Saturday morning in Tacoma, Wash. Wilson had his four children by his side at the time.

"Our dad was an amazing rhythm guitar player who touched people all over world with his band, The Ventures," his son Tim said in a statement. "He will have his place in history forever and was much loved and appreciated. He will be missed."

Born Feb. 10, 1933, in Tacoma, Wilson founded The Ventures with his friend Bob Bogle in 1958. The quartet shot to international fame after dropping their first wide-release single "Walk, Don't Run" in 1960, which was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its lasting significance.

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"We never set out to be a surf band," Wilson told PEOPLE in 2020. "Honestly, I love playing surf music — it's very fun and it makes you feel good. But we never really considered ourselves a surf band. It was just all these things coming together — the surf culture, the electric guitar, Americana — when we were coming up in the early 1960s. Kind of a happy accident, I guess you could say. We play all kinds of music, though, including our 'Venturizing' of everything from classical to disco."

Drummer Howie Johnson, guitarist Don Wilson, bassist Nokie Edwards and guitarist Bob Bogle of the rock and roll band "The Ventures" pose for a portrait in 1960.
Drummer Howie Johnson, guitarist Don Wilson, bassist Nokie Edwards and guitarist Bob Bogle of the rock and roll band "The Ventures" pose for a portrait in 1960.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Ventures had 14 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 100 million records. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Groups like The Beatles, Beach Boys, Go-Go's, and even Kiss have cited The Ventures as inspiration, with Gene Simmons having been in the band's fan club and George Harrison saying he liked the sound of their guitar.

The instrumental group is also known for their tracks "Hawaii 5-0," "Wipeout," and "Perfidia," as well as for writing songs feature in movies like Pulp Fiction, Zoolander, Kangaroo Jack, and Dogtown and Z-Boys.

Until his retirement in 2015, Wilson remained an active member of the group and never missed a tour with The Ventures. He continued to record with the band's current lineup and produced the 2020 documentary The Ventures: Stars on Guitars with his family.

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"This is the first actual documentary about The Ventures, if you can believe," he told PEOPLE at the time. "It means so much to me that my kids made this."

Wilson is survived by his four children, Jill, Tim, Cyd, and Staci and his ex-wife Nancy Bacon.

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