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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 no matter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remained the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre ever produced. Dale's pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familial heritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such "exotic" scales in guitar-shredder academies by two decades. The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique was unrivalled until it entered the repertoires of metal virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen, and his wild showmanship made an enormous impression 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 to develop new equipment that was capable of producing the thick, clearly defined tones he heard in his head, at the previously undreamed-of volumes he demanded. He also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects, creating a signature sonic texture for surf instrumentals. And, if all that weren't enough, Dale managed to redefine his instrument while essentially playing it upside-down and backwards -- he switched sides in order to play left-handed, but without re-stringing it (as Hendrix later did).

Dick Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston in 1937; his father was Lebanese, his mother Polish. As a child, he was exposed to folk music from both cultures, which had an impact on his sense of melody and the ways string instruments could be picked. He also heard lots of big band swing, and found his first musical hero in drummer Gene Krupa, who later wound up influencing a percussive approach to guitar so intense that Dale regularly broke the heaviest-gauge strings available and ground his picks down to nothing several times in the same song. He taught himself to play country songs on the ukulele, and soon graduated to guitar, where he was also self-taught. His father encouraged him and offered career guidance, and in 1954, the family moved to Southern California. At the suggestion of a country DJ, Monsour adopted the stage name Dick Dale, and began performing in local talent shows, where his budding interest in rockabilly made him a popular act. He recorded a demo song, "Ooh-Whee Marie," for the local Del-Fi label, which was later released as a single on his father's new Del-Tone imprint and distributed locally. During the late '50s, Dale also became an avid surfer, and soon set about finding ways to mimic the surging sounds and feelings of the sport and the ocean on his guitar. He quickly developed a highly distinctive instrumental sound, and found an enthusiastic, ready-made audience in his surfer friends. Dale began playing regular gigs at the Rendezvous Ballroom, a once-defunct concert venue near Newport Beach, with his backing band the Del-Tones; as word spread and gigs at other local halls followed, Dale became a wildly popular attraction, drawing 1,000s of fans to every performance. In September 1961, Del-Tone released Dale's single "Let's Go Trippin'," which is generally acknowledged to be the 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 "Jungle Fever," "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 Records and national distribution for Surfer's Choice. Dale was featured in Life magazine in 1963, which led to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and the Frankie/Annette film Beach Party; he also released the follow-up LP King of the Surf Guitar, and went on to issue three more albums on Capitol through 1965. During that time, he developed a close working relationship with Leo Fender, who kept engineering bigger and better sound systems in response to Dale's appetite for louder, more maniacally energetic live performances.

Surf music became a national fad, with groups like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean offering a vocal variant to complement the wave of instrumental groups, all of which were indebted in some way to Dale. But in 1964, the British Invasion stole much of surf's thunder, and Dale was dropped by Capitol in 1965. He remained a wildly popular local act, but in 1966, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer, which forced him to temporarily retire from music. He beat the disease, however, and soon began pursuing other interests: owning and caring for a variety of endangered animals, studying martial arts, designing his parents' dream house, and learning to pilot planes. In 1979, a puncture wound suffered while surfing off Newport Beach led to a pollution-related infection that nearly cost him his leg; Dale soon added environmental activist to his resumé. In addition to all 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-movie sendup Back to the Beach. The soundtrack featured a duet between Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Chantays' surf staple "Pipeline," which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. In 1991, Dale did a guest spot on an album by the San Francisco-based Psychefunkapus, and a successful Bay Area gig got him signed with Hightone Records. The album Tribal Thunder was released in 1993, but Dale's comeback didn't get into full swing until, in 1994, "Miserlou" was chosen as the opening theme to Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Pulp Fiction. "Miserlou" became synonymous with Pulp Fiction's ultra-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 surprisingly strong 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 few years. He finally returned with a new CD in 2001, Spacial Disorientation, issued on the small Sin-Drome label. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Legendary! Glad I was able to see him perform in person. Thanks Dale.
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love the guitar work...!!!
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Not buying that any one person invented surf music. Like rock and roll it was a collaborativ e effort. Pioneering giants there be and Dick Dale was certainly that.
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clowheat
Kind of looks like a young Richard Nixon.
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So green day gets in the Hof but not dick!! Wtf?!?
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fernadolopez 8 5
Dick Dale, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing guitarist that rock has ever made.
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I''d like to know the credentials of the Pandora author who suggests that Dick Dale, or the Ventures and Link Wray, are similar to The Trashmen. Dale, Wray and The Ventures deserve the R&R HOF but what the hell did the Trashmen do? Surfin' Bird? Really?!!
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I'm with tunesmith99, WHY Link Ray and Dick Dale aka Richard Monsour are NOT in the R&R Hall of fame is ambominable! ! ! Absolute Bullshit!!
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Too big.! Have TO sit AND WATCH!!
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relam483
That's weird I met him at a concert a couple days ago and he gave me a 20 minute talk that was really nice then he gave me a bunch of free stuff
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johnd.slocum
I met him at a very small venue bar near Orlando Fl., in the early 90's. He was rude and very dismissive. I can only hope he has beaten his demons
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relam483
His fingers must hurt like heck
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love this guy!
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jackiedavis3 5 5 1
I saw him live in a bar on the beach near Seaside Heights NJ in 2009 and he was very very good. Awesome guitar player
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rmblucas
I think this is actually Dick and SRV. . . . .
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tunesmith99
I have had the pleasure of meeting Dick Dale. Hearing from the king himself the story of surf music and the first 100 watt amplifier. And I feel the greatest injustice in the history of modern music is that the Rock n Roll hall of fame doesn't acknowledge him for who he is. The creator of surf music, the father of heavy metal, the father of punk, the king of loud. All hail dick dale may he shred forever.
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zindlerj3
I have seen Dick Dale many time in So Cal over the past 30 years. He is a legend and has influenced many guitarist. His music will live on forever.
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Saw him live last night! AMAZING! He played a base guitar with drum sticks.....n o t picking but hitting the strings....s t a g e precense hilarious!
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As a teen I grew up in the fifties listening to Dick Dale and the Del Tones. I used to go the Balboa ballroom in Balboa California and dance the surfers stomp to their music.
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what rhasselblad said totally
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Dick Dale and his Fender Stratocaster . Perfect medicinal music for murky end-of-winte r chilly-rain inland torpor. Sun and Surf and raunchy licks!
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The Venture are responsible for a lot of future guitarists. Just ask John Fogerty.
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The Ventures only got into the Hall of Fame because of their contribution to guitar distortion. Dick Dale is only associated with being the king of the surf guitar. The former is much more important in rock history.
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Awesome
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Classic
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As a teen in the fifties I used to go to the Balboa Ballroom in Balboa California to dance to Dick Dale and the Deltones.
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1178175243
I love Dick Dale. Wonder how his health is now?
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Teriuchi Is the king of surf not Dale !
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I watched a show in Del Mar a few years back when he had he son on stage with him. Dueling guitars playing Miserlou; it was amazing!
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DD is ill at the moment , a combination of things. Pray, channel positive energy for him!
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edwels610
Dick Dale is truly a living legend, saw him many times in Philly,
he is master of the guitar, hands down the loudest show ive ever
seen and Im a metal/punk fan.
He blows me away each time, I love how he sits in on the drums,
Ive seem him play trumpet, acoustic, harmonica, it all sounds awesome.
Nice guy too.
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edwels610
ll
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stellar elevator music
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Dick Dale coming to Moe's in Denver July 7th, 2013! Can't wait to finally see the legend in person!
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kittyislove
Saw him at Grand Central in Miami last minute last week. Been dying to see him, and man was it worth it. To be in the presence of a classic legend! He's insane, the rest of the band couldn't even keep up with him and the sounds in his head. He's on another plane, and still remains the king to this day. I can't even listen to anyone else without thinking how much of an influence he had on others. The one, the only, the original Dick Dale, ladies and gentleman! Keep rocking, you crazy f**k!
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tray.mccoy
Don't read this because it actually works you will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life tomorrow will be the best day of your life however if you don't post this you will die in 2 days now you've started reading so don't stop this is so scary put this on at least five songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lovers name will come on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
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as a former 'Del-Tone' I am always inspired and amazed by Dick's ability and agility.
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Man, Dick Dale's playing still amaze's me even after all these years.
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missycat_97
saw him in Atlanta in 1997- outstanding concert to a packed house!
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In 1965 I saw a guy sitting by himself at Bolsa Chica beach and asked if he had any spare wax for my board.He seemed annoyed to be disturbed-pr o b a b l y was thinking up a hit song while starring at the surf..Sorry Dick.Still have your matching surfboards?
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I witnessed Dick Dale and met his lovely wife this past summer at thebeachcomb e r . c o m and I am ever more enamored. Michelle
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Dick, you hosted me and some friends at your Sky Ranch to talk music and airplanes in '92. Such an honor to hear most of this bio first hand. I still have the poster you signed praising my landing skills, what a memorable day. Long live the king.

Mike
Report as inappropriate
Dick - Just wanted to say Thank You for all the great memories of Harmony Park, back in 63 & 64, sorry I couldn't make your Sacramento appearances, in the last cpl of Yrs.
Don
Report as inappropriate
Why do some of you worry about douche-bag crap? FU#K the R&R Hall of Fame. Way too many lightweights in there to justify it's existence. Dick: If they call, HANG the Hell UP!
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elvis never was the king---DICKD A L E was the king!!!!!!!! ! !
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Wife & I saw Dick in Cleveland on 7/14 @ the Grog Shop. It was the 7th time we have seen him over the last 10-15 years. It doesn't get any better. The Rock N' Roll Hall-of Fame will never be complete w/o DICK DALE.
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I saw him in NYC last night. It was a good time, Dick was awesome! And his son kicks a** on those drums! Check him out if you can he is on tour now!
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Saw Dick Dale last night at Space in Evanston, IL! He was great as usual!
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princess_gra y . s o c k s 3 9 4
Wow, richmiddleto n 9 , that is great! Dick Dale is such an awesome guy. And his guitar skills... *faints*
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I,ve been a fan since 1959.Used to go to his Playgirl Club in Garden Grove back in the 70,s.Got close to him in 2008-I had colorectal cancer and was having a hard time.One night I went on his web site & saw he was having the same surgery & the same problems as I was experiencing . I e-mailed his site & got an answer back from Dick.We were back & forth on e-mail & phone for several months.He,s very easy to talk to. I think we helped each other get thru a very bad experience.H e ' s in his mid 70,s now
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