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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
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Live At The Santa Monica Pier

1. Shredded Heat (Live)

2. Nitro (Live)

3. The Trail Of Tears (Live)

4. Fish Taco (Live)

5. Take It Or Leave It (Live)

6. Ghostriders In The Sky (Live)

7. Caterpillar Crawl (Live)

8. Rumble (Live)

9. Miserlou (Live)

10. Calling Up Spirits (Live)

11. Window (Live)

12. Nitrus (Live)

13. The Wedge Paradiso (Live)

14. Let's Go Trippin' (Live)

15. Shake "N Stomp (Live)


Track List: Live Santa Monica Pier

1. Shredded Heat (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

2. Shredded Heat (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

3. Nitro (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

4. Nitro (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

5. The Trail Of Tears (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

6. The Trail Of Tears (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

7. Fish Taco (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

8. Caterpillar Crawl (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

9. Take It Or Leave It (Live Santa Monica, CA - 7/18/96)

10. Rumble (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

11. Ghostriders In The Sky (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

12. Fish Taco (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

13. Caterpillar Crawl (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

14. Fever (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

15. Rumble (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

16. Shake And Stomp (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

17. Miserlou (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

18. Ghostriders In The Sky (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

19. Calling Up Spirits (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

20. Jungle Drums / Tribal Thunder (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

21. Window (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

22. Miserlou (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

23. Nitrus (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

24. Peter Gunn (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

25. The Wedge Paradiso (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

26. Speardance (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

27. Let's Go Trippin' (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

28. Let's Go Trippin' (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)

29. Shake And Stomp (Live Santa Monica, CA 7/18/96)

30. Third Stone From The Sun (Live Santa Monica, CA 8/12/94)


Track List: At The Drags

1. Wild, Wild Mustang

2. The Victor

3. Mag Wheels

4. Mr. Eliminator

5. Blond In The 406

6. Surf Buggy

7. Taco Wagon

8. Nitro Fuel

9. The Scavengers

10. Firing Up

11. Hot Rod Racer

12. 426 Super Stock

13. Big Black Cad

14. Ho Dad Machine

15. 50 Miles To Go

16. My X-Ke

17. Hot Rod Alley

18. Flashing Eyes

19. Night Rider

20. The Lonesome Road


Track List: Calling Up Spirits

1. Nitrus

2. The Wedge Paradiso

3. The Pit

4. Fever

5. Doom Box

6. Catamount

7. Window

8. Calling Up Spirits

9. Temple Of Gizeh

10. Bandito

11. Third Stone From The Sun

12. Peppermint Man

13. Gypsy Fire


Track List: Unknown Territory

1. Scalped

2. Mexico

3. F Groove

4. Terra Dicktyl

5. Take It Or Leave It

6. Ghostriders In The Sky

7. Fish Taco

8. California Sun

9. Maria Elena

10. Hava Nagila

11. The Beast

12. Unknown Territory

13. Ring Of Fire


Track List: Tribal Thunder

1. Nitro

2. The New Victor

3. Esperanza

4. Shredded Heat

5. Trail Of Tears

6. Caravan

7. The Eliminator

8. Speardance

9. Hot Links: Caterpillar Crawl

10. The Long Ride

11. Tribal Thunder

12. Untitled (Hidden Track)


Track List: Summer Surf

1. Summer Surf

2. Feel So Good

3. Surfin'

4. Spanish Kiss

5. The Star (Of David)

6. Banzai Washout

7. Glory Wave

8. Surfin' Rebel

9. Never On Sunday

10. Mama's Gone Surfin'

11. Tidal Wave

12. Thunder Wave

13. Who Can He Be

14. Oh Marie


Track List: Mr. Eliminator

1. Mr. Eliminator

2. 50 Miles To Go

3. Flashing Eyes

4. Taco Wagon

5. The Squirrel

6. The Victor

7. Blond In The 406

8. Firing Up

9. My X-Ke

10. Nitro Fuel

11. Hot Rod Alley

12. Wild Ideas

13. Wild, Wild Mustang


Track List: Checkered Flag

1. The Scavenger

2. Surf Buggy

3. Hot Rod Racer

4. Mag Wheels

5. Big Black Cad

6. Ho-Dad Machine

7. Grudge Run

8. Motion

9. 426-Super Stock

10. The Wedge

11. It Will Grow On You

12. Night Rider

13. Secret Surfin' Spot

14. Surfin' And A-Swingin'


Track List: King Of The Surf Guitar

1. King Of The Surf Guitar

2. The Lonesome Road

3. Kansas City

4. Dick Dale Stomp

5. What'd I Say

6. Greenback Dollar

7. Hava Nagila

8. You Are My Sunshine

9. Mexico

10. Break Time

11. Riders In The Sky

12. If I Never Get To Heaven

13. Lobo

14. Cotton Picking


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I love it
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I saw Dick Daletill this past September at the Middle East in Cambridge Mass. He's in his 80s and he still blew the doors off the place.
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Dick Dale is AWESOME MAN . No doubt about it.
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Can't wait to see him Thursday at the Wonderbar in Asbury Park.
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On Saturday nights in 63-65, I went to Dick Dale performances at the Riverside National Guard Armory. Dick Dale and the Del Tones remain my favorite musical artists of all time. Dick was also an exceptional saxophone player. Those Saturday night dances are some of my favorite memories before I enlisted. When I got out of the Army in '67, I was no longer able to dance and lost track of Dick Dale. I wish him well as he approaches 80.
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the rock n roll hall of fame is a joke.
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OK, so NWA is in the Rock and Roll HOF and Dick Dale isn't? That's f**ked up.
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Still remember Friday & Sunday nites at Harmony Park Buena Park, 62-64; Sat.'s were for the Country crowd. Don Miller
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E Que P**o!
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Love dick dales music. I miss California when I hear surf music
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Ahora boy a cojerme su madre y me la va a chupar
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Basyanse a chingar suu p**a guanga madre
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Now that I think about it this was the kind of music that parents didn't want their kids to listen to, just like they dont want them to hear today's rap music
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saw him in concert great show using those thick guitar strings to get that unique guitar riff. truly the king of the surf guitar
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crystalkonop k a
Dick dale is great i love all his songs he never had a bad one he's one of those people where you put the cd in and let it play he's a great artest
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Was able to see the Legend 3 years straight when he played St Petersburg FL (where his wife is from). Hope He's able to make it back again, incredible show every time !!
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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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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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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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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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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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I think this is actually Dick and SRV. . . . .
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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as a former 'Del-Tone' I am always inspired and amazed by Dick's ability and agility.
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saw him in Atlanta in 1997- outstanding concert to a packed house!
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