EDWARDS, NOLE FLOYD (1935–2018).
A rock and roll guitarist with roots in traditional Oklahoma music, Nole Floyd "Nokie" Edwards was born on May 9, 1935, in Lahoma, Oklahoma, to Elbert and Nannie Mae Quinton Edwards. "Nokie" is a combination of his first name, Nole, and "Okie." Most of the Edwards family were amateur musicians. They were inclined toward bluegrass, country and western, and Oklahoma's other traditional music. Nokie Edwards's parents moved west to Washington state when their son was a baby. By age five Nokie played guitar; at eleven he could play all string instruments but decided to concentrate on guitar. In the 1950s he performed with country artists such as Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, Cal Smith, and Ferlin Husky.
In 1959 Edwards became lead guitarist for The Ventures, now considered the most significant instrumental combo in the history of rock music. Group cofounders were Bob Bogle (bass) and Don Wilson (rhythm guitar). Edwards soon established himself as a fleet soloist and important stylist. The band recorded "Walk, Don't Run" in 1959. In 1960 it surged on radio and was picked up by Dolton Records for distribution, peaking at No. 2 on the national pop charts. The Ventures helped redefine and repopularize the electric guitar combo during the late 1950s and early 1960s pop music era. Featuring Edwards's speedy electric guitar work, The Ventures's drum-driven dance music inspired countless surf music groups and garage bands of the 1960s, including The Beatles and The Kinks. The Ventures's popularity peaked in the 1960s and 1970s. Their influence continued into the punk rock movement of the 1970s and the alternative country music of the 1980s through the 2000s.
The group tallied fourteen Top 100 singles in the 1960s, and thirty-seven of their albums made the U.S. charts. They had five gold albums and were named Billboard's Most Promising Instrumental Group of 1960. They sold an unprecedented one million albums per year from 1961 to 1966 and had sold more than a hundred million albums through 2003. Edwards stayed with The Ventures from 1959 to 1968 and played on nearly fifty albums. He was usually lead guitarist on all their best known songs: "2,000 Pound Bee" (the first song to use a fuzz box effect on a guitar), "Hawaii Five-O," "Fugitive," "Surf Rider," "Yellow Jacket," "Walk Don't Run '64," "Sleep Walk," "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and "Driving Guitars," and on covers of The Surfaris's "Wipe Out" and Carman and Spickard's "Pipeline."
Edwards left The Ventures in 1968 but rejoined them from 1972 to 1984. Then he began a solo career, in 2002 releasing an album titled Hitchhiker. Nokie Edwards died on March 12, 2018, in Yuma, Arizona.
Hugh W. Foley, Jr., Oklahoma Music Guide II (Stillwater, Okla: New Forums Press, 2013).
Blake Herzog, "Yuman Nokie Edwards, Guitarist for The Ventures, Dies at 82," Yuma (Arizona) Sun, 14 March 2018.
"Nokie Edwards," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Hugh W. Foley, Jr., “Edwards, Nole Floyd,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ED014.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.