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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Music General Discussion »

Permalink The Ventures: Stars on Guitars Movie

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A movie is in the works about The Ventures:

Site dude - S3 Agent #202
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"It starts... when it begins" -- Ralf Kilauea

COOOOOL! According to the trailer they invented surf haha!

Dan Izen

Daniel Deathtide

I'm actually interested in seeing this.


There are two!

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

Can't wait and I'm glad at least one original Venture is around to participate. I knew John Fogerty is a fan and just as I'm thinking that, bingo, there he is. It's about time since they were responsible for so many picking up the guitar.

DeathTide wrote:

COOOOOL! According to the trailer they invented surf haha!

Dan Izen

Hey, Dan, on a national/global scale there is more truth to that statement that you might imagine. While Dick Dale (arguably) invented surf music on the West Coast, his music was getting little or no airplay in most other parts of the country until the Pulp Fiction revival. When I started playing guitar in 1964, living in the South at the time I had never heard of Dick Dale. But I damn sure knew who The Ventures were, having listened to WDR and Perfidia repeatedly very early on. But when the WDR '64 album came out, that was my impetus to buy a $50 Japanese electric guitar with lawn mowing money so I could learn how to play Ventures songs and their beautifully crafted instrumental versions of some of the best vocal radio hits of the time.

So.....while The Ventures were not and never claimed to be a "surf band", they were definitely the catalyst that led literally thousands of (mostly) guys to get an electric guitar and amp so that they could learn some of the Ventures songs, some of which were 1960's-era surf flavored. Example: "Surf Rider" which was a 1963 Ventures original written by Nokie Edwards that was later covered by The Lively Ones and was featured on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

aka WoodyJ

The Mariners (1964-68, 1996-2005)
The Hula Hounds (1996-current)
The X-Rays (1997-2004, 2024-)
The Surge! (2004, 2011-2012)
Various non-surf bands that actually made money

Hi Jack, I agree with you 100%. I knew I was a surf music fan long before I got serious enough about it to learn its origins. I knew surf was strongly linked to Southern California and I enjoyed learning its rich history and discovering all the classic bands, but it was The Ventures that first got me hooked.

My Classic Instrumental Surf Music Timeline
SSS Agent #777

When I saw Nokie here some years ago, he called him and his pickup band the Surf Riders which I thought was interesting. Jack also knows that Surf Rider was originally called Spudnik. For that matter, Mr. Moto references the Peter Lorre character, and Pipeline was originally called Liberty's Whip (after the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).

I'm all for the surf label personally but I think before the early bands latched on to the association with the activity (or vice versa), they just wanted to play electric guitar based instrumentals like the Ventures, Link Wray, and Duane Eddy--all of the people Paul Johnson tells us they were listening to.

Received in my e-mail in-box about the movie. Looks like a private screening Oct. 26, 2019.
Unclear about the actual public release, etc. Stacy Layne Wilson has a
website but not much info. there, other than selling movie posters. Maybe on some 'social media' outlet or something. Not sure how I got on the mentioned mail list (or how to subscribe), other than she contacted me some months back when she discovered I was a long-time Ventures fan.
The blurb:
It's time to start the show.
The Ventures: Stars on Guitars will have its first (non-public) screening tomorrow at the cast and crew party in Malibu on Saturday, October 26!
"I’ve written and directed quite a few movies, but this is my first documentary—and it is truly the hardest (but hopefully most rewarding) thing I have ever done. Sorting through the maze of music rights alone is enough to turn Mother Theresa into the Tasmanian Devil. And there are so many moving parts, not the least of which was single-handedly coordinating 35+ interviews spanning several states and different countries. When making a narrative film, you have a script to follow and a fictional story that won’t step on anybody’s toes. But documentaries are about real people. They grow and stretch and morph as they’re being filmed, always changing shape until the final edit.
"Thanks to the help of my family and music friends, The Ventures: Stars on Guitars features some of the biggest names in music. We have Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Steely Dan), Lalo Schifrin (Academy Award-winning composer of The Mission Impossible theme), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), and Billy Bob Thornton (The Boxmasters); plus female stars like Josie Cotton, Liz Brasher, The Surfrajettes, The Neptunas, and Ruiko of The Whys; insiders including Seymour Duncan (premier pickup maker), Del Casher (inventor of the wah-wah pedal), and we even tracked down the Surfing and Spying album cover model, Pleasant Gehman (aka: The Princess of Hollywood).
"This is my dad’s story and I am so proud to be able to bring it to the world as a filmmaker."
---Staci Layne Wilson
This newsletter will only be sent out occasionally, only when we have screening dates or/and news to share. But if you would like to unsubscribe, we understand! The link to do so is below.
Want this poster? You can pre-order it here.


"The Ventures: Stars on Guitars" Feature Documentary Film WORLD PREMIERE!
Featuring Don Wilson, Billy Bob Thornton, Jimmy Page, Josie Cotton and many, many more. Feb 12 - 6:15 pm / 1 hr 29 min TRT
Regal Cinemas / L.A. Live
Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival
Tickets available at:
February 12, 2020 - 6:15pm - THE VENTURES: Stars on Guitars
LA LIVE/Regal Cinemas 1000 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Tickets $17.00 Service Charge $2.67
It has been announced that "The Ventures: Stars on Guitars" has won Documentary Film at HRIFF."

They were nice enough to send me a screener. I liked it, and it's very surf heavy.

Storm Surge of Reverb: Surf & Instro Radio

Nice review.

Can't wait to see this and also looking forward to a lot of Mosrite guitar action.

El Twitter
El Ray
El Ray on Bandcamp
El Twang on YouTube

To be fair I'm not wildly concerned with the percentage of surf content, especially as the 'Are-the-Ventures-surf-or-not' question inflames the public to this day.

But there can be no doubt that they were Promethean in establishing the self-contained instrumental combo that focused on vocal-like guitar leads and pop/rock arrangements. So I think the question of 'would surf exist without them?' has been largely answered and/or acknowledged, Dick Dale notwithstanding.

I haven't yet seen the film (more on that later). I think it a remarkable confluence of events, people and places that Don Wilson and Nancy Bacon ended up married for a time and had daughter Staci Layne. Nancy's somewhat infamous memoir was, unfortunately, heavy on the Paul Newman affair tittle-tattle but lighter - and very matter-of-fact - on the marriage to Wilson. Staci's autobiography was a bit more detailed but even that book tended towards generalities in contrast to the details about her adventures in the mountains surrounding the LA basin, her horse riding, even her mom's unusual collection of pets.

One observation from her stuck with me: she never once saw Dad playing guitar around the house, not even to pick one up and noodle. Paraphrasing: 'To him, it was a job so he treated it that way.' Not all that surprising when you consider the sheer volume of recording, touring, promoting, etc. that occupied nearly every hour outside the home but still a bit hard to imagine for one of the original guitar heroes.

Back to the confluence, I'm glad Staci launched this project, I'm glad she had the ultimate insider status, I'm glad she has extensive experience in the film industry and as a writer. I wish, however, that this film had been made years ago - even ten years would have been nice, if only to get more in-person and in-depth interviews with the principals - members, producers, session cats, fans, etc. Wilson is 53 now and would have been just as capable at age 43. The pop music documentary biz was already well established and buzzing with anthologies and biopics. Conversely, the market dominance of Netflix today means more people are able to see such films.

It's not a criticism but I think SL Wilson has lived in LA for so long where the smallest films are well-publicized and well-attended because, well, that's LA and the people producing the mass-market stuff don't actually go to see the mass-market stuff (or they get screeners, private viewings, etc.). Limited-release road shows that are meant to generate publicity are nice and perhaps even essential in recouping costs but a) they are one-off events in far-flung places and b) it takes longer to get the film on consumer media - streaming, DVD etc.

For example, I'm in a metro area of 2.5-3 million persons - a fat juicy target market with dream demographics - but venues in which independent and/or documentary films are shown are being closed due to gentrification, rent increases, etc.

In sum, I'm gagging to see the film, wish it had been made years ago, understand the filmmakers' approach to publicity and exhibition but wish there had been financing and distribution setups in place to make it more widely available and in less time.

Hi, Everyone.

This is Staci Wilson, director of the documentary. If you'd like to read some less-negative reviews of the film, please check these out. These are by working film critics, some of whom didn't know anything about The Ventures, and said that they learned a lot and enjoyed the way the documentary was made. (For the record, music rights from Sony and Peer cost tens of thousands of dollars. I did the best I could via Fair Use and the kindness of the musicians who lent me their songs.)

Movie Mensch

We Live Entertainment (review 1, Mark Krawczyk)

We Live Entertainment (review 2, James Oster)

Cinema Crazed

At Home in Hollywood

Guitar Digest/Skope

Rockabilly N Blues Radio Hour

= = =
Thanks, everyone, for your love and support of The Ventures over the years. It really means a lot to my dad, and to our family.

If you're interested in subscribing to our YouTube Channel, we have some deleted scenes from the movie, and B-Roll that didn't make it into the final cut:

One more quick thing -- this is a really fun new podcast on The Ventures and the documentary

This movie is available on Hoopla - a streaming app that you can get free from most public libraries. If you don't have a library card, many libraries are letting you sign up for one online during the pandemic.

I watch lots of movies through Hoopla and Kanopy with a Chromecast, but there are other ways of casting to your TV for a nice viewing experience.

If you need help doing this, email me at

BTW, I watched the movie and enjoyed it. Learned a lot about the Ventures and gained respect for them.


For those that have a Roku, you can download the Hoopla app on that and watch it on your TV.

Last edited: Dec 30, 2020 09:35:37

"Stars on Guitars" is very lively, it kept my interest continuously from start to finish. I didn't even get up once for a snack or chewing gum, and that has not happened in years of watching movies on my large projection TV screen. This was despite no information new to me, as I have been an avid fan since 1960.

The rapid screen shifts and high energy should suit even short attention spans. The speedy parade of interviewee faces was engrossing. I'm surprised that "Perfidia" and "Lullaby of the Leaves" received no mention, and "Hawaii 5-0" was described only very briefly, while "Wipeout" was emphasized. This movie seemed mostly about other peoples' impressions of the Ventures.

The movie doesn't show a stage performance of a song by The Ventures. Although there was a lot of background music, to my ears little was performed by the Ventures. I recognized their "Spindrift" at the end but I didn't notice any others that sounded like them, besides a few seconds at a time here and there. Although Walk Don't Run was discussed at length it was not in the soundtrack. Still, the background music was pleasant.


Last edited: Jan 01, 2021 20:48:04

TheVenturesMovie wrote:

One more quick thing -- this is a really fun new podcast on The Ventures and the documentary

My copy is on the way. But I also hope it will be shown at the next Ventures Fan Fest. I think everyone who goes will be thrilled if you're there to talk about it. And welcome to SG101, Staci! Very glad you're here.

This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.

Last edited: Jan 02, 2021 16:29:18

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