Legendary surf guitar hero Dick Dale dies at 81

March 19, 2019 | Surfing
Dick Dale: the surf guitar hero inspired millions of musicians | Photo: Creative Commons

Dick Dale, the godfather of surf guitar, has passed away at 81, in Loma Linda, California.

The "King of Surf Guitar" inspired millions of musicians worldwide and pioneered a music genre that enriched surf culture.

Richard Anthony Monsour was born on May 4, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts. He got into music by learning to play piano but was later attracted to the ukulele.

His first guitar cost him $8, and soon after he developed his unique playing technique which combined both rhythm and lead styles.

In 1954, Dale's family moved to Southern California, and the young musician learned to surf.

His interest in Arabic music, the use of non-Western scales, his passion for reverb and loud amplifiers would become the ingredients of his trademark sound.

The left-handed guitarist started playing in small bars, but his talent led him to the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa where, in 1961, his songs would ignite a surfer crowd eager to dance to an exciting new sound.

The Sound of California

Dick Dale & His Del-Tones boosted the notoriety of the Fender Stratocaster guitar like no one else and reshaped popular music forever.

Surfing was living its hey-days in California, and "Let's Go Trippin'" was Dick Dale's first surf rock hit.

"Surfer's Choice," his first full-length album, quickly conquered the nation's heart and ears.

"Misirlou" - the famous song that Quentin Tarantino used in the 1994 movie "Pulp Fiction" - followed in 1962 and became Dick Dale's signature song.

The godfather of surf guitar later told that it was inspired by his favorite sport.

"There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing and that feeling was simply transferred into my guitar when I was playing surf music," Dale revealed.

Dick Dale survived colorectal cancer and nearly lost a leg. He didn't drink alcohol, never used drugs, and stopped eating meat in 1972.

In 2009, Dick Dale was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum, in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years later, the guitarist was also inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California.

The inventor of surf rock never stopped performing live.

"I can't stop touring because I will die. Physically and literally, I will die. Sure, I'd love to stay home and spend time with my wife in Hawaii, but I have to perform to save my life," Dick Dale told Pittsburgh City Paper in 2015.

Dick Dale | Discography

Surfers' Choice (1962)
King of the Surf Guitar (1963)
Checkered Flag (1963)
Mr. Eliminator (1964)
Summer Surf (1964)
Tribal Thunder (1993)
Unknown Territory (1994)
Calling Up Spirits (1996)
Spacial Disorientation (Dick Dale Records/The Music Force, November 13, 2001)

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