RIP Dick Dale - King Of Surf Guitar

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RIP Dick Dale - King Of Surf Guitar

rip dick dale surf guitar
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Sad news in overnight of the passing of legendary Californian guitarist Dick Dale, the man who created the highly charged, reverb-drenched surf guitar style in the early 60s. Dick Dale who influenced numerous other surf instrumentalists including Australia’s own Atlantics, and enjoyed a late-career resurgence thanks to Pulp Fiction

Known as “The King of the Surf Guitar,” Dick Dale influenced numerous other surf guitar groups like The Surfaris, The Chantays, and Sydney’s Atlantics. His loud and pulsating guitar style prompted technical advances in amplification that led to him being considered by some to the father of early Heavy Metal. His classic hit “Misirlou” featured in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack three and a half decades later, prompting a career revival that saw him playlisted on Triple J and touring Australia.

Dick Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston. Moving with his family to California, he started surfing in the late 50s and decided to create a style of music that invoked the feeling of riding the waves. The “wet” sound of excessive reverb on his guitar sound was part of that. Of Lebanese descent on his father’s side, Dick incorporated Middle Eastern scales into his music, which can be clearly heard in the likes of “Miserlou.”

Dick Dale & the  Del Tones' second single, 1961’s "Let's Go Trippin'" is regarded as the first surf rock song. A phenomenally successful run at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California took Dick Dale and his band over the top. Pulling 3000 kids a night, Dale whipped the primarily surfer audience into a stomping frenzy which resulted in the shows being known as “Stomps,” a name that would soon be used for similar events in also surf-mad Sydney. To get the necessary volume to be heard over the crowd, Dale has worked with the legendary Leo Fender to create what became the first 100-Watt Amplifier, which not only took rock music to previously unheard volumes, but in turn created new tonal qualities that would later influence guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to Eddie Van Halen and beyond. Hendrix’s famous quote ‘You’ll never hear surf music again”, which is routinely taken to be a put down of the music, was, in fact, a tribute to Dale when the influential guitarist was forced into a temporary retirement because of a bout with cancer late in the ‘60s.

Whilst The Beach Boys, of course, developed a different thread of surf music around the same time, Dale’s early work inspired a number of like-minded instrumental artists who had massive landmark hits themselves; The Surfaris with “Wipe Out”, The Chantays with the slightly more subdued “Pipeline”, and of course Sydney’s phenomenal Atlantics, with their own worldwide smash “Bombora”.

The Surfaris 

The Chantays 

The Atlantics 

Dick Dale would come back in 1986 with a new album that won him a Grammy and which led to him performing a new version of “Pipeline” with Stevie Ray Vaughan. He came back in a much bigger way the following decade when Quentin Tarantino included the original “Misirlou” in the smash soundtrack to Pulp Fiction in 1994. Dick became a great live draw again, and, at the age of 58 in 1995, he toured Australia on the back of unlikely Triple J support for his new Unknown Territory album. At this point, Dick was still playing deafeningly loud and bare-footed, and he would stomp so heavily and so uncontrollably around that his reverb unit had to be suspended from the roof to avoid his feet!

Dick Dale & Stevie Ray Vaughan 

“Unknown Territory” 

Dick Dale died of heart failure on March 16, 2019, at the age of 81. Stomp on in Heaven, Dick!

dick dale
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)


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