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Dick Dale

Dick Dale wasn't nicknamed "King of the Surf Guitar" for nothing: he pretty much invented the style single-handedly, and nomatter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remained the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre everproduced. Dale's pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familialheritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such "exotic" scales inguitar-shredder academies by two decades. The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique ...read more

Dick Dale wasn't nicknamed "King of the Surf Guitar" for nothing: he pretty much invented the style single-handedly, and nomatter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remained the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre everproduced. Dale's pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familialheritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such "exotic" scales inguitar-shredder academies by two decades. The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique was unrivalleduntil it entered the repertoires of metal virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen, and his wild showmanship made an enormousimpression on the young Jimi Hendrix. But those aren't the only reasons Dale was once called the father of heavy metal.Working closely with the Fender company, Dale continually pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping todevelop new equipment that was capable of producing the thick, clearly defined tones he heard in his head, at the previouslyundreamed-of volumes he demanded. He also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects, creating a signature sonic texturefor surf instrumentals. And, if all that weren't enough, Dale managed to redefine his instrument while essentially playing itupside-down and backwards -- he switched sides in order to play left-handed, but without re-stringing it (as Hendrix laterdid).Dick Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston in 1937; his father was Lebanese, his mother Polish. As a child, he was exposedto folk music from both cultures, which had an impact on his sense of melody and the ways string instruments could bepicked. He also heard lots of big band swing, and found his first musical hero in drummer Gene Krupa, who later wound upinfluencing a percussive approach to guitar so intense that Dale regularly broke the heaviest-gauge strings available andground his picks down to nothing several times in the same song. He taught himself to play country songs on the ukulele, andsoon graduated to guitar, where he was also self-taught. His father encouraged him and offered career guidance, and in1954, the family moved to Southern California. At the suggestion of a country DJ, Monsour adopted the stage name DickDale, and began performing in local talent shows, where his budding interest in rockabilly made him a popular act. He recordeda demo song, "Ooh-Whee Marie," for the local Del-Fi label, which was later released as a single on his father's new Del-Toneimprint and distributed locally. During the late '50s, Dale also became an avid surfer, and soon set about finding ways to mimicthe surging sounds and feelings of the sport and the ocean on his guitar. He quickly developed a highly distinctiveinstrumental sound, and found an enthusiastic, ready-made audience in his surfer friends. Dale began playing regular gigs atthe Rendezvous Ballroom, a once-defunct concert venue near Newport Beach, with his backing band the Del. Tones; as wordspread and gigs at other local halls followed, Dale became a wildly popular attraction, drawing 1,000s of fans to everyperformance. In September 1961, Del-Tone released Dale's single "Let's Go Trippin'," which is generally acknowledged to bethe very first recorded surf instrumental.

"Let's Go Trippin'" was a huge local hit, and even charted nationally. Dale released a few more local singles, including "JungleFever," "Miserlou," and "Surf Beat," and in 1962 issued his (and surf music's) first album, the groundbreaking Surfer's Choice,on Del-Tone. Surfer's Choice sold like hotcakes around Southern California, which earned Dale a contract with Capitol Recordsand national distribution for Surfer's Choice. Dale was featured in Life magazine in 1963, which led to appearances on The EdSullivan Show and the Frankie/Annette film Beach Party; he also released the follow-up LP King of the Surf Guitar, and wenton to issue three more albums on Capitol through 1965. During that time, he developed a close working relationship with LeoFender, who kept engineering bigger and better sound systems in response to Dale's appetite for louder, more maniacallyenergetic live performances.Surf music became a national fad, with groups like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean offering a vocal variant to complement thewave of instrumental groups, all of which were indebted in some way to Dale. But in 1964, the British Invasion stole much ofsurf's thunder, and Dale was dropped by Capitol in 1965. He remained a wildly popular local act, but in 1966, he wasdiagnosed with rectal cancer, which forced him to temporarily retire from music. He beat the disease, however, and soonbegan pursuing other interests: owning and caring for a variety of endangered animals, studying martial arts, designing hisparents' dream house, and learning to pilot planes. In 1979, a puncture wound suffered while surfing off Newport Beach led toa pollution-related infection that nearly cost him his leg; Dale soon added environmental activist to his resumé. In addition toall of that, Dale performed occasionally around Southern California throughout the '70s and '80s.

In 1986, Dale attempted to mount a comeback. He first recorded a benefit single for the UC-Irvine Medical Center's burn unit(which had helped him recuperate from potentially serious injuries), and the following year appeared in the beach. moviesendup Back to the Beach. The soundtrack featured a duet between Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Chantays' surfstaple "Pipeline," which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. In 1991, Dale did a guest spot on an albumby the San Francisco-based Psychefunkapus, and a successful Bay Area gig got him signed with Hightone Records. The albumTribal Thunder was released in 1993, but Dale's comeback didn't get into full swing until, in 1994, "Miserlou" was chosen asthe opening theme to Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Pulp Fiction. "Miserlou" became synonymous with Pulp Fiction'sultra-hip sense of style, and was soon licensed in countless commercials (as were several other Dale tracks). As a result,Tribal Thunder and its 1994 follow-up Unknown Territory attracted lots of attention, earning positive reviews and surprisinglystrong sales. In 1996, he supported the Beggars Banquet album Calling Up Spirits by joining the normally punk- and ska-oriented Warped Tour. Adding his wife and young drum-playing son to his band, Dale refocused on touring over the next fewyears. He finally returned with a new CD in 2001, Spacial Disorientation, issued on the small Sin-Drome label. « hide

Similar Bands: The Ventures, The Surfaris

LPs
Spacial Disorientation
2001

Calling Up Spirits
1996

4
2 Votes
Unknown Territory
1994

4.5
1 Votes
Tribal Thunder
1993

4.5
1 Votes
Summer Surf
1964

Mr. Eliminator
1964

Checkered Flag
1963

4
1 Votes
King Of The Surf Guitar
1963

Surfer's Choice
1962

4.2
13 Votes
Compilations
Greatest Hts 1961 - 1976
1992

4.5
3 Votes
King Of The Surf Guitar - The Best Of
1989

4.2
15 Votes

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