One year without Dick Dale, The King Of Surf Guitar

Richard Anthoni Monsour, better known as Dick Dale, was born in Boston in 1937. During his childhood he learned to play the piano, trumpet, ukelele, tarabaki and the oud, these last two instruments are of Arab origin, and since his father had Lebanese descend, they were usual to find them in his family, it was his uncle who familiarized him with them. Shortly afterwards he learned to play the guitar, curiously he was left-handed, but he played without reversing the stings, playing bass with tie bottom strings and treble with the top strings. Like all the instruments he had learned to play, he did so in a self-taught way. During his adolescence his family decided to move to California where Dick begins to surf, Dick explained on more than one occasion that he was passionate about surfing and that he spent all day on the beach and when he was not on the board he was playing the guitar or running with his motorcycle.

His first musical influence was Hank Williams, in fact, his stage name Dick Dale was intended to be a Country music artist. Around 1955 Dick was already playing regularly in venues that offered live Country music. Dick’s interest in Rock & Roll was soon awakened, but his way of playing was strongly influenced by the way he played the oud, a kind of lute used in Greek and Lebanese music, with a kind of pulsation, a way of playing very fast, and a type of scales that were not common in American music, made Dick create his own style, even so, in his first recordings, 4 singles that go from 1958 to 1960, there is no glimpse of what he will give of himself soon after. In these albums it sounds more or less conventional Rockabilly and R&B, of very good quality. To all this, we have to add his passion of surfing, according to Dick, he wanted to show with his music the power of the ocean and its waves and what it felt like when you were on a board riding a wave. In his search to musically reflect all these sensations, Dick began to play with increasing volume, the ocean is very powerful, which made Leo Fender see in him the perfect artist to test some of his amplifiers. Dick burned one amplifier after another, until one day, Leo Fender and his assistant went to see a performance by Dick Dale and saw thousands of young people dancing and screaming frantically, then Leo Fender understood what Dick Dale had been asking him for a long time, more power! More volume! Leo Fender managed to get Dick Dale’s Fender Stratocaster guitar and its Fender Showman amplifier with its characteristic reverb, to achieve a volume that no conventional team, of its time had, with it performed at the legendary Rendezvouz Ballroom, of Balboa Beach in California, with 3.000 spectators without the screams of the crowd being able to turn off the sound of his guitar. Leo Fender said about the volume that Dick Dale was playing, that it was like a bombardment, and that he didn’t know if it was fit for consumption by the human ear. For all this, Dick Dale has been a great influence for many guitar players of his time and later like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Hendrix, or Eddie Van Halen, to name a few of the most significant. His first recordings were vocal tracks, for his father’s small label, Deltone records.

In 1960 Dick met Billy Barber and Nick O’malley, future members of his Del-tones, at a Country concert, who taught him how to adjust the tone of the guitar in intermediate positions, which helped define his powerful sound. Little by Little, the surfers in the area began to attend his concerts. On July 1, 1961, 3000 people gathered to see him at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, this concert was what can truly be considered the first of surf music. For this concert Dick had formed what would be his band throughout the 60’s The Del-tones, who had adopted the name in tribute to his father’s small record label. Even without the support of any record company, Dick Dale & The Del-Tones became a true mass phenomenon. It was around this time that Dick Dale’s public began to use the expression “let’s go to a Dick Dale dance!». Let’s go trippin’ was his first instrumental success. Instrumental Rock & Roll was very fashionable back then and the public asked for this type of composition. The song had no name for a long time, until at a concert, while introducing the song, he explained to the audience that the song had no name, screams of «Let’s go trippin!» began to be heard, which meant something like «Go for it!», in the slang of the surfers, and that was definitely its title. Recorded in August 1961, it was his greatest success, it was number one in countries like England, Australia or Japan. In 1962 he recorded Misirlou, which over the years has become his most popular song.

Dick had one success after another, well-placed songs on the charts, appearances on television shows and surf-themed films, etc…. Everything was going great until in 1966 he was diagnosed with a rectal cancer, this made him have to leave the stage until 1983, the year in which he returned with his album “The Tigers Loose”, for the Balboa label. Over the years, Dick came to master a Good number of instruments, bass, saxophone, accordion, banjo, guitar, trumpet, piano, as well as various instruments of Lebanese and European origin. In the 90’s, with the inclusion of his song Misirlou in the soundtrack of the movie Pulp Fiction, Dick Dale enjoys a second youth, he returns to act all over the world, in many festivals until practically his death.

Dick Dale led, for much of his existence, a very healthy lifestyle, he was a great lover of nature and animals, specifically big cats, he was a vegetarian, he did not drink, hi did not smoke, he did not take drugs, A lover of karate and surfing, all this made it possible to perform live with an energy that many young people would envy until shortly before his death in 2019, at the age of 81.

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