Dick Dale – King of The Surf Guitar

Dick Dale – The Shredder

Dick Dale, a southpaw guitar player who played a right-handed guitar flipped upside down. His guitar playing was so fast and hard that Guitar maker Leo Fender even customized Mr. Dale’s amplifiers. It was to prevent the barrage of notes from blowing out his speakers. So, if you ever had the chance to see him live. You can see why some people refer to him as the Godfather of Metal. He took reverb to new levels! He often worked close with Leo Fender on the production of amps and guitars.

Surf Guitar Legend

A lot of people say that Dick Dale’s “Let’s Go Trippin” was the first surf song. Maybe, but The Gamblers and The Ventures would maybe question this as well. Either way, they all created some really great beach music and paved the way for future generations.

Dick Dale – King of Surf Guitar

Dale, born Richard Anthony Monsour in 1937, changed the sound of rock and roll in the early 1960’s when he upped the reverb on his guitar and applied the Arabic scales of his father’s native Lebanon. Born and originally raised in Massachusetts, he found his aesthetic when his family moved to Orange County, California in 1954 — where he took up surfing.

For someone who wanted to play cowboy music, and listened to Hank Williams and loved Gene Krupa, how did surf music play in this scenario?  He took the elements from all these influences and created his own style. He is also self taught on different instruments – Check out this interview below.

His Musical Aspirations

When he stayed at his grandparents farmhouse in Whitman, Massachusetts, he would walk through the swamps with his friends listening to people strumming guitars. It was during this time that he bought his first guitar for $8, and paid his buddy 25 or 50 cents a week. When he started playing it, he used the ukulele chords. 

His family moved to California just after he finished 11th grade. It was there that he discovered surfing and along with everything else, he started his signature surf guitar style back in in 1955. And the kids he surfed with called him “King of the Surf Guitar.” But he considered his music to really being based out of Gene Krupa and the screams of all his different exotic animals he had. And then there was the ocean. “I never called it surf music” -Dale says. He may have not called it surf music, but he influenced a lifestyle and a music genre.

I’ve learned all styles of music — spiritual, country, Hank Williams stuff, jazz, Dixieland.” Dale says.”Music is just an expression of feeling that comes out of your body. And that’s basically it.” Though he’s quite aware of his influence, he doesn’t consider himself a virtuoso, he thinks of himself as “a manipulator of sound.” 

Career Mishaps and Martial Arts

Dale was a survivor in a career filled with mishaps and hardships. Despite this, he kept trudging forward using martial arts to help him recover from cancer. Through all the difficulties, the guitarist remained resolute about his music career.  

Furthermore, Dale came up with his version of The high-energy interpretation of an old song called “Misirlou” (Egyptian Girl), which became the most famous song of surf rock. Later, it was revived in the cult film “Pulp Fiction”. He had learned the tune from his Lebanese uncles, who played it on the oud. So, do you have this song playing in your head now? And the perfect ending to this is…