These guys released some two dozen albums in the first half of the 1960s alone, and they must have been desperate for material. How else to explain why a song like Jimmy Crack Corn – a standby from everyone’s second or third music lesson — would wind up on Dance With The Ventures (also known as Twist Party Vol. 2 — itself a title that speaks volumes about the integrity of this group’s artistic vision).
It’s not that the Ventures were bad. In fact, it turned out I’ve enjoyed listening to the hours of instrumentals I ripped. But in their vast output it’s not always easy to find the kind of passion you expect in headlining musicians. And how could they be so unalterably square in a period when being hip was not that hard, something that Johnny Cash so ably demonstrated? Yes, I’m happy today that I can listen to their rendition of the Get Smart theme, but its existence speaks volumes about what the Ventures weren’t up to in the 1960s.
Now to my long-time nagging question: Who bought these records originally? Not that many years ago thrift stores across the country could reliably fill a whole section with Ventures LPs. Who liked them that much? Clearly the band had a following. But who?
My first theory: Grandparents who wanted to buy the kids a pop record but knew nothing about the music. They went on the strength of the covers, which in the case of the Ventures usually looked cool enough, at least to grandparents of the 1960s.
Here’s a second theory: These records were bought by teachers at thousands of schools to play at dances or other functions — music the kids might at least recognize but that would never offend parents or chaperones.
One more theory: Nerdy kids wanting to learn guitar but not knowing better, and guitar teachers who needed something entirely inoffensive to introduce their students to picking.
I’m not sure this adds up quite enough to explain all those millions of Ventures records out there, but it’s a start.
Anyway, if you’re itching to get a ready-made Ventures collection, I’m selling 24 albums In one lot on eBay. Go here to bid.