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Dick Dale (born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4, 1937, in Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker) is a surf-rock guitarist, known as "The King Of The Surf Guitar". He experimented with reverberation and made use of custom made Fender amplifiers, including the first-ever 100-watt amp.


Dale was born to a Lebanesemarker father and a Polishmarker mother, and moved from Massachusetts to Orange County, Californiamarker in 1954. He learned to surf and became interested in music. He soon learned to play the drums, the ukulele, the trumpet and finally the guitar. Among his early musical influences was his uncle, an oud player performing belly dance music. Much of his early music shows a Middle Eastern influence; Dale is often credited as one of the first electric guitarists to employ non-Western scales in his playing. Dale himself was an amateur surfer and wanted his music to reflect the sounds he heard in his mind while surfing. While he is primarily known for introducing the use of guitar reverb that would give the guitar a "wet" sound, which has since become a staple of surf music, it was Dale's tremolo picking that was his trademark. Since Dale was left-handed he was initially forced to play a right-handed model, much like Jimi Hendrix would do a few years later. However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down (while Hendrix would restring his guitar) and often plays by reaching over the fretboard rather than wrap his fingers up from underneath. Even after he acquired a proper left-handed guitar, Dale continued to use his reverse stringing. Dale is also noted for playing his percussive, heavy bending style while using what are, for most guitarists, extremely heavy gauge string sets (16p, 18p, 20p. 38w, 48w, 58w; standard electric guitar string set may range from 10 to 46).

His desire to create a certain sound led him to push the limits of equipment:Leo Fender kept giving Dale amps and Dale kept blowing them up! Till one night Leo and his right hand man Freddy T. (Freddy Tavares) went down to the Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa Peninsula in Balboa, California and stood in the middle of Four Thousand screaming dancing Dick Dale fans and said to Freddy, I now know what Dick Dale is trying to tell me. Back to the drawing board. A special 85 watt output transformer, manufactured by the Triad Transformer Company, was made that peaked 100 watts when Dale would pump up the volume of his amp, this transformer would create the sounds along with Dale's style of playing, the kind of sounds that Dale dreamed of. But they now needed a speaker that would handle the power and not burn up from the volume that would come from Dale's guitar.

Leo, Freddy and Dale went to the James B. Lansing speaker company, and they explained that they wanted a fifteen inch speaker built to their specifications. That speaker would soon be known as the 15" JBL -D130 speaker. It made the complete package for Dale to play through and was named the Single Showman Amp. When Dale plugged his Fender Stratocaster guitar into the new Showman Amp and speaker cabinet, Dale became the first creature on earth to jump from the volume scale of a modest quiet guitar player on a scale of 4 to blasting up through the volume scale to TEN! That is when Dale became the "Father of Heavy Metal" as quoted from Guitar Player Magazine. Dale broke through the electronic barrier limitations of that era!

[quoted from the official Dick Dale Web site.]

With his backing band The Del-Tones, Dale's live performances became huge local draws. 1961's "Let's Go Trippin'" is often regarded as the first surf rock song. This was followed by more locally released songs, including "Jungle Fever" and "Surf Beat" on his own Deltone label. His first full-length album was Surfers' Choice in 1962. The album was picked up by Capitol Recordsmarker and distributed nationally, and Dale soon began appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and in films. His signature single "Misirlou" went to No. 1 in Los Angeles. He later stated, "I still remember the first night we played it ("Misirlou"). I changed the tempo, and just started cranking on that mother. was eerie. The people came rising up off the floor, and they were chanting and stomping. I guess that was the beginning of the surfer's stomp." His second album was named after his performing nickname, King of the Surf Guitar.

Though surf rock became nationally popular in the United States briefly, the British Invasion began to overtake the American charts in 1964. Though he continued performing live, Dale was soon set back by rectal cancer. He recovered, though, and retired from music for a time. In 1979, he almost lost a leg after being injured while swimming; a pollution-related infection made the mild injury much worse. As a result, Dale became an environmental activist and soon began performing again. He recorded a new album in 1986 and was nominated for a Grammy, and the use of "Misirlou" in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, gained him a new audience. He has released several albums since and continues to tour.

In 1987 he appeared in the movie "Back to the Beach." He features playing surf music, also playing "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In 1993 he recorded a guitar solo on the track "Should Have Known" by Southern California indie band "The Pagodas" which was released as a vinyl single.

In 1995, he recorded a surf-rock version of Camille Saint-Saƫns's "Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals for the musical score of the enclosed roller coaster, Space Mountain at Disneylandmarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker.

The National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche use the song Scalped as their theme song.

In 2002, Dale appeared in The True Meaning of Christmas Specials, he also played several original songs for the program.

Of recent interest, the Black Eyed Peas song "Pump It" (from the 2005 album Monkey Business) heavily samples Dale's "Misirlou". "Misirlou" is also featured in the PlayStation 2/Xbox 360 video game, Guitar Hero II, as well as the Wii launch title Rayman Raving Rabbids.

In the movie Space Jam, as Elmor Fudd and Yosemite Sam shoot out teeth from one of the Monstars, a clip from Misirlou is played.

Dale has been calling Twentynine Palmsmarker, Calif., his home now for more than 25 years.

In 2008, Dick Dale experienced a recurrence of rectal cancer and has finished a chemo and radiation treatment..


Dale has never used alcohol or drugs, and discourages use by band members and road crew. Health is a priority for him; 39 years ago he ceased eating red meat, and he has studied Martial arts for 30 years. At age 72 he still puts on a physically energetic live show. In early 2008, Dick was diagnosed with rectal colon cancer and underwent surgery to remove the malignant tumor. He is currently recuperating from the subsequent radiation and chemo therapy and vows to be surfing again by summer's end. By June, 2009 Dick Dale has begun a West Coast tour from Southern California to British Columbia, approximately 20 concert dates. "Forever Came Calling" or FCC, featuring Dale's 17-year-old son Jimmy Dale on drums, will be opening for him. (source: Dale's official website and Dale live onstage in Ventura, CA, 6/14/09)

Peel Sessions

Dick Dale made four recordings for John Peel's Peel Sessions

  1. March 30, 1995 (Maida Vale 4)
  2. July 10, 1995 (3 Mcr.)
  3. August 28, 2002 (Maida Vale 4)
  4. March 24, 2004 (Maida Vale 4)

(Taken from the BBC Radio 1 John Peel minisite; see external links)

Peel later selected Let's Go Trippin' as the theme tune for his BBC Radio 4 series Home Truths.


As well as the Fender amplifiers mentioned, Dale is associated with the Fender Stratocaster guitar. Fender makes a signature model, the Dick Dale Custom Shop Stratocaster, fitted with "Custom Shop '54" pickups, which are supposed to recreate the sound of the first "Strats". Dick uses a reverb unit with the signal split between two Fender Dual Showman amps. As of 2008, Dale continues to play with his original reverb unit and Showman amps from the early 1960s. Dale is notable for stringing his left-handed guitar upside down.




  • Let's Go Trippin'/Del-Tone Rock (Deltone 1961)
  • Jungle Fever/Shake-N-Stomp (Deltone 1961)
  • Misirlou/Eight 'Til Midnight (Deltone 1962)
  • Mr. Peppermint Man/Surf Beat (Capitol 1962)
  • Secret Surfin Spot/Surfin' and Swingin' (Capitol 1963)
  • Let's Go Trippin' '65/Watusi Jo (Capitol 1965)
  • "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan, nominated for a Grammy




External links

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