Dick Dale (born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts) 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 guitar amplifier.
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
|Dick Dale with Little Stevie Wonder|
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.
During the 1980's, Dale set his sights on the comeback trail, performing numerous concerts and, most famously, recording "Pipeline" with guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan for the Back to the Beach film. The pair were subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award for their take on The Chantays' song.
Dick Dale's popularity soared during the 1990's thanks to the appearance of his song "Miserlou" in the opening scenes of Quentin Tarantino's film Pulp Fiction. Numerous licensing deals and TV commercials followed, as well as a string of well received albums including Tribal Thunder, Unknown Territory, and Spacial Disorientation. In 2008, Dick Dale experienced a recurrence of rectal cancer and underwent surgery.
Even at an age twice that of most other performing artists in rock and roll, Dale continues to record and perform at venues across the U.S. into 2016 in order to pay for medical bills. (Info edited from various sources mainly AMG)