Here, I am approaching playing the Ventures in the same way most Shadows enthusiasts play Shadows covers. That means playing a piece in the same style and with the same sound as the original recorded version. I realize Ventures fans (and the Ventures themselves) don’t subscribe to this approach, so I am setting this out for those who enjoy this sort of endeavor.
As the “sound “ of the Ventures varies tremendously from piece to piece and it is difficult to categorize Ventures styles and sounds even by era (as it is with the Shadows), I will focus here on the original 1960 version of “Walk Don’t Run,” which set off the Ventures on their path to stardom (and immortality!). Here are my guesses, probably wrong, on what gear to use, so please correct me as necessary.
Lead Guitar: Bob Bogle used a 1959 or early 1960 Jazzmaster, so that would be ideal. For us, a Jazzmaster made to pre-1963 specification would be best. In 1963, the rosewood fingerboard became much thinner. Prior to this Fender used a big slab of rosewood for the fingerboard, referred to as a “slab board.” The Ventures Jazzmaster had this slab board.” Fit with thick (13-56?) gauge flat-wound strings. Three-color sunburst ideal (the equivalent of Hank Marvin’s trademark “Fiesta Red”).
Rhythm Guitar: I am assuming Don Wilson used his first Stratocaster, probably a 1959 model with a maple neck. See the cover of the Walk Don’t Run album. This was most likely fitted also with thick (13-56?) gauge flat-wound strings.
I would assume that a 1956-onward Strat would be correct, as the pre-1956 Stratocasters had ash rather than alder bodies. Fender changed over to a rosewood fretboard in 1960, so those models would not be spot on. All-maple-necked guitars are supposed to have a brighter tone. I note that Don changed to a rosewood-fretboad Strat by the time of the Colorful Ventures album, which shows him with such a guitar.
Bass Guitar. I assume a Precision bass, also fitted with flat wounds, but I am guessing here.
Amplifiers: According to the book “Walk Don’t Run,” for the March 22, 1960 recording, the “amps consisted of two Fenders, (Vibrolux and Bassman), and a Gibson model GA-40.” I assume Bob used the Vibrolux and Don the Gibson amp. I know too little about the Vibrolux and GA-40 amps to recommend current equivalents.
For my own purposes, I use either a Fender Twin Amp or a ’65 Twin Reverb, both tube (valve) reissues by Fender. Would those have the same valves and circuitry as a Vibrolux? To my ears, the sound is very close.
The current Bassman amp is a guitar, not a bass, amp and different in both design and sound from the original. The new Fender TV Bassman bass amp might be close, but this is a hybrid amp, so an all-tube bass amp might be a better alternative. Perhaps those more knowledgeable than me can set me up straight on this.
So there. Comments and corrections will be appreciated.