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Author Topic: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81  (Read 3093 times)

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Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« on: March 18, 2019, 0328 UTC »
Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81

By Emily S. Rueb and Jon Pareles

    March 17, 2019

Dick Dale, who was known as the King of the Surf Guitar and recorded the hit song “Misirlou,” which was revived on the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack, died on Saturday at a hospital in Southern California. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by Dusty Watson, a drummer who played live shows with Mr. Dale. The cause was not immediately known.

Mr. Dale was a surfer, sound pioneer and guitarist whose unusual, percussive playing style and thick, thunderous music earned him the nickname the Father of Heavy Metal, and influenced the Beach Boys, the Cure, Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.

Sam Bolle, a bassist who played with Mr. Dale’s namesake band, Dick Dale, for about 15 years, described him as “an aggressive and ferocious” musician who played like one of the lions he raised at his home.

“I played a gig with him about a month ago,” he said, and “he was still slaughtering people with volume.”

Mr. Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston in 1937. He developed a musical signature that was influenced by the traditions of his Lebanese father and Eastern European mother, and the flamboyant big-band drummer Gene Krupa.

After moving to California as a child, Mr. Dale defined the sound of surf guitar as a musical expression of the elemental surge of the ocean, with its savage waves, its volatile crosscurrents and its tidal undertow. He played melodies that crisscrossed the beat with the determination of a surfer riding across choppy waves, forging a triumphant path above deep turbulence.

“Surf music is a heavy machine-gun staccato picking style to represent the power of Mother Nature, of our earth, of our ocean,” he told The New York Times in 1994. His almost constant tremolo created friction so intense that it melted his guitar picks and strings as he played.

“The staccato is so fast it heat-treats the strings,” he said. “They turn purple and black and they snap. And when I play, you’ll see a flurry of plastic — it just falls down like snow. I used to think it was dandruff. But I grind so hard that the guitar picks just melt down.”

His quest for a sonic impact to match what he had felt while surfing also led to innovations that would change the technology of electric guitars and amplification.
Mr. Dale in 2015. He called the surf music he played “a heavy machine-gun staccato picking style to represent the power of Mother Nature, of our earth, of our ocean.”CreditMatthew J. Lee/The Boston

Leo Fender, one of the electric guitar’s trailblazers, worked closely with Mr. Dale to create a guitar sturdy enough to withstand his style — Mr. Dale called it the Beast — and an amplifier that could crank up loud enough to fill a dance hall.

“Leo and I went to Lansing Speaker,” Mr. Dale said in 1994, “and we said, ‘We need a speaker that will not burn, will not flex, will not twist, will not break.’”

In the fast-changing 1960s, instrumental surf rock reigned briefly on the charts, and the Beach Boys used it as one foundation of their pop songs. Mr. Dale’s brash playing also found a fan in Jimi Hendrix, among many other guitarists, and, decades later, among a generation of indie-rockers who prized his untamed sound.

Chris Darrow, a multi-instrumentalist recording artist who has been in the music industry for 50 years, first saw Mr. Dale perform at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach in the early 1960s.

“The intensity and volume of the performances were such that the wooden building seemed to lift off the ground when he played,” Mr. Darrow said in an interview with the music journalist Harvey Kubernik. “Until the Beatles came along there was nothing that drove the audiences as wild like Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. He was boss.”
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“The only real surf guitarist for me is Dick Dale,” he added. “All the rest are imitators.”

In 1963, Mr. Dale’s music was catapulted onto a national stage when he performed “Misirlou,” an adaptation of a traditional Arabic song, on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” That same song re-entered the mainstream in the 1990s, as the opening anthem for Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster film “Pulp Fiction.”

Mr. Watson, who played live with Mr. Dale for over a decade, said Mr. Dale had been sick for a while, but that “he’s such a bull,” he thought he would “power through it.”

“He’s an incredible loss for music,” he said.

Mr. Dale’s survivors include his wife and manager, Lana Dale, and his son, Jimmy.

For years, Mr. Dale struggled with health issues, including bouts with rectal cancer and renal failure. But he performed through the pain.

“Don’t worry about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow,” Mr. Dale told California Rocker, an online music publication, in 2015. “Don’t worry about yesterday because it’s used. It’s either good or it leaves you feeling bad. And don’t waste time or energy worrying about tomorrow. I could have a stroke and be dead. That’s why they call it the present. It’s a present.”

For him, music was medicine.

“I have to perform to stay alive,” he once said.

Offline Pigmeat

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2019, 1113 UTC »
The God of The Surf Guitar has ascended to Nirvana where all waves are tubular and glassy and the wahini's are happy to see you. I was proud to have been one of his airwave prophets.

Offline Rizla

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2019, 0036 UTC »
My band opened for him maybe ten years ago. I met his crew but not Mr. Dale himself, he arrived via the parking lot, strolling into the very crowded venue like a space alien just landed, with a wireless rig for his guitar. I must assume that he had not changed one iota from his earlier days, rather like Link Wray, another Great. His philosophy of life was and is saner than most rock n' rollers, not to mention most people. R.I.P. 
QTH: Sonoran Desert, AZ. Kenwood TS-820S, FT-891, Tecsun 880, neophyte in a forest of antenna wire.

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2019, 1259 UTC »
He once told me an early version of a wireless amp hookup is what he and his band used in those surf movies of the 60's. The guy who directed those things wanted the club scenes to be authentic as possible, barely able to talk over the band and crowd noise w/o dubbing the music into the soundtrack later. Those weren't exactly big budget movies. Frankie Avalon was already charting records, and Annette Funicello was a TV star, dubbing them in singing could be justified to the producers.

If you backed him up 10 years ago, that was the era of his giant RV with the fold out stage. When venues outsold their capacity for his shows, he'd roll out the stage and play in the parking lot. He'd been touring as much as possible since the cancer reoccurred to pay his medical bills. Sad to see him go.

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Offline Rizla

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2019, 1909 UTC »
Pigmeat: I really appreciate your memories. The gig was in AZ,  probably 2006-8, somewhere in there. I really regret not having made the effort to meet the man. (always a grave mistake to assume that larger than life folks will return or be around forever)
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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2019, 0424 UTC »
 Dick Dale pickin, Misirlou starts about minute and forty seconds in after some country pickin ....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76fGo5I-rXM
« Last Edit: March 21, 2019, 0428 UTC by Traveling Wave »
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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2019, 1417 UTC »
Only saw him play live once, but it was awesome. 1997 at the Bumbershoot fest in Seattle.
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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2019, 1445 UTC »
Lol, the old goat started that clip with the Carter Family's "Wildwood Flower",TW.

Rizla, the guy could play about any instrument. Most of the live footage you see of him on the net he plays the trumpet part in "Miserlou" with one hand while playing the guitar riff with the other. Left handed and upside down would describe Dick's guitar style. It was good enough for him and the left handed Jimi Hendrix who idolized Dale.

There was bad movie in the 80's called "Back To The Beach". The only redeeming scene is watching Dick eat Stevie Ray Vaughn's lunch in a "Battle of The Bands" scene playing "Pipeline". SRV was pretty far into the junk by then and a shell of what he'd been.

My in to DD was fella I knew who toured with Dick when he was showing off his lions and tigers in the 80's. When I started doing Dickhead Radio early in the century, I gave Dick a shout to clear it with him mentioning the guys name. He told me to "Stay away from that weirdo." and sent me some CD's. It went on from there.

I know what you mean about meeting these people while you can. I finally got up the guts to speak to Patti Smith after a show last year. That woman is a hoot! Lenny Kaye still likes getting stoned. Patti's son and daughter were holding him up for the encore.

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2019, 1957 UTC »
Rizla, the guy could play about any instrument. Most of the live footage you see of him on the net he plays the trumpet part in "Miserlou" with one hand while playing the guitar riff with the other. Left handed and upside down would describe Dick's guitar style. It was good enough for him and the left handed Jimi Hendrix who idolized Dale.
Unless I'm mistaken the difference between Hendrix & Dale is that Hendrix played a right handed guitar lefty but restrung it low E to high E (top to bottom) as would be traditional while Dale played a right handed guitar lefty but left the strings as is so he was actually playing "upside down" high E to low E (top to bottom).  No easy trick that's for certain.
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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2019, 2252 UTC »
If only he could have hooked up with Belinda. Now THAT would have been a supergroup.

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Re: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Is Dead at 81
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2019, 1133 UTC »
If only he could have hooked up with Belinda. Now THAT would have been a supergroup.

How do you know he didn't, Al? The girls all loved Dick.

 

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