Walk, Don't Run (instrumental)

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"Walk, Don't Run" is an instrumental composition written and first recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954.[1] It was later adapted and re-recorded by Chet Atkins in 1956, and was a track on the lp "Hi-Fi In Focus". This arrangement was covered by the Ventures in 1960 and achieved world-wide recognition, being regarded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

The Ventures[edit]

"Walk, Don't Run"
Single by The Ventures
from the album Walk, Don't Run
B-side "Home" (Blue Horizon & first Dolton pressings, British pressing)
"The McCoy" (later Dolton pressings)
Released June 1960
Genre Rock, surf rock
Length 2:00
Label Blue Horizon (USA)
Dolton (USA), Reo (Canada), Top Rank (UK)
Writer(s) Johnny Smith
The Ventures singles chronology
"The Real McCoy"
"Walk—Don't Run"

After hearing a Chet Atkins recording of "Walk Don't Run", the Tacoma-based instrumental rock band The Ventures released their version of the tune as a single in spring 1960 on Dolton Records. This version made the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #2 and reaching #3 on the Cash Box magazine chart for five weeks in August and September 1960.[2] The Dolton release of this record had two backing sides, the first release (Dolton 25) had "Home", and after initial sales were so great (to gain royalties), the B side was replaced with a Bogle-Wilson original composition, "The McCoy" (Dolton 25-X).

This single, their first national release, vaulted the Ventures' career. The song was recorded before the band officially had a drummer. The Ventures' website lists the drummer on Walk, Don't Run as Skip Moore. Skip was given the choice of $25 or 25% of the money the record would make for playing on the session. He took the $25".[citation needed] Bob Bogle played the lead guitar part on this first Ventures recording of the song. The band later rerecorded the song in 1964 (see below), and became the first band to score two top ten hits with two versions of the same tune.

In the UK, the tune was covered by the John Barry Seven, whose version, while only peaking at #11 on the Record Retailer chart, compared to the Ventures' #8, outcharted them by reaching the Top 10 on other UK charts, such as that of the NME.

In July 2003, the tune was recorded by Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards and the Light Crust Doughboys for the album Guitars Over Texas. This version is known for its jazz-inflected second verse and the use of keyboards in place of rhythm guitar.[3]

The song follows the Andalusian cadence, although the Ventures' version replaces the vi chord (relative to C major) with a VI chord, A major. [4]

Critical reception[edit]

Rolling Stone magazine rated the Ventures' version of "Walk, Don't Run" as number 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

Walk, Don't Run '64[edit]

"Walk, Don't Run '64"
Single by The Ventures
B-side "The Cruel Sea"
Released 1964
Label Dolton (USA)
Writer(s) Johnny Smith
The Ventures singles chronology
"Walk, Don't Run '64"

"Walk, Don't Run '64" is an updated Ventures recording that features a guitar style more similar to that of "Misirlou", and is notable for starting with a "fade-in" (as opposed to many songs of the era that ended with a "fade out"). It reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #9 on the Cash Box magazine chart in 1964.[citation needed]

The B-side, "The Cruel Sea", was a version of the Dakotas' 1963 single. Both recordings featured Nokie Edwards playing the lead guitar part.

The recording was used in 2000 for the dancing scene in the Australian movie The Goddess of 1967 by Clara Law.

Johnny Smith[edit]

Walk, Don't Run was written by Smith in 1954, who was inspired by the song Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise by Romberg and Hammerstein.[5] Smith, a jazz musician who had backed singers such as Patrice Munsel performing the song, composed Walk, Don't Run as a contrafact, using the chord progression from Softly... as the basis for his melody, which he keyed in D minor.[1] Smith included the piece on his 1954 album In A Sentimental Mood using a title chosen by his producer, Teddy Reig. It was also on Smiths 1956 album, Moods.[1]

In 1967, Johnny Smith recorded a new and more up-tempo arrangement with Hank Jones, George Duvivier and Don Lamond on his album Johnny Smith's Kaleidoscope.[6]

In 1998 Smith was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal for his contribution to music; the citation singled out “the genesis of Walk, Don't Run”, as well as “his manifold accomplishments” and their “profound and pervasive influence on the role of the guitar in contemporary popular culture”.[5]

Chet Atkins[edit]

In 1957 Chet Atkins recorded a popular rendition of the song for his album Hi-Fi in Focus. He did so after discussing the matter with Smith, who was pleased with the arrangement.[1] Atkins played his arrangement in A minor, using fingerstyle and including the bass notes A,G,F and E. This later became the basis for the Ventures' arrangement. Other cover versions include those by the Shadows, Agent Orange, Zapatón, Steve Howe, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Tommy Leonetti and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

Selected recorded versions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Stringham, Bart (November 2005). "The Song That Launched A Thousand Ships (…filled with guitar players)". Just Jazz Guitar (45): 42. Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  2. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles - 1960". Cashbox. Retrieved 2014-10-15. 
  3. ^ a b "Art Greenhaw Music CD's & Cassettes". The Connextion. Retrieved 2014-10-15. 
  4. ^ "The Ventures "Walk, don't run"". musicnotes.com. Retrieved 2015-12-13. 
  5. ^ a b Campbell, Bob (March 15, 2001). "Guitar Legend Johnny Smith Alive and Well in Colorado Springs". Colorado Springs Independent. Colorado Springs, Colorado. Retrieved May 2, 2011. 
  6. ^ Flanagan, Lin (2015). Moonlight in Vermont: The Official Biography of Johnny Smith. Anaheim Hills: Centerstream Publishing. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-57424-322-2. 

External links[edit]