Dick Dale, legendary King of the Surf Rock Guitar, will perform at the High Noon Saloon in Madison this Friday night, August 12th. The show opens at 7:00 with local retro-rockers the Kevin Fayte Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio. WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio is proud to be a media partner for this rare concert event.
Dick Dale had his first national hit (“Let’s Go Trippin'”) in 1961, when he & the Del-Tones were doing a six-month “surfer stomp” residency at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, California. Deploying an upside-down Fender Stratocaster with thick-gauge strings, the left-handed guitarist pioneered guitar reverb and loud amplification. Son of a Lebanese immigrant father, Dale (born Richard Anthony Monsur in Boston, MA) used his background playing tarabaki drums and piano in experimenting with Middle Eastern scales and a pulsating, percussive beat.
After his family moved to southern California in 1954, Dale took up surfing. He sought a “wet” style of guitar-based music that reflected the sounds he heard in his mind while riding waves. He was widely influential, using staccato picking as well as lead and rhythmic aspects simultaneously. In 1962 Dick Dale & the Del-Tones released the signature instrumental single “Misirlou,” based on a Lebanese folk melody, as well as their debut album (Surfers’ Choice). Dale was soon appearing in movies (Muscle Beach Party & its ilk) as well as on top network TV programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show.
Dick Dale’s hip sound and square-looking band caused a national sensation at the same time as the Beach Boys brought harmony vocals to the pinnacle of pop music. The craze for “surf music” was displaced by the British Invasion in 1964, after which Dale endured a roller-coaster career. Renal cancer forced his early retirement in the late ’60s, bumming out big fan Jimi Hendrix. Dale’s innovations in distortion technology and booming performance led to the moniker the “Father of Heavy Metal.”
The resilient Dale returned, now as an environmental activist, after suffering a severely infected leg injury while swimming in 1979. He eventually released a concept album called Mom II: Music for Our Mother Ocean in 1997. His honors include induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum (Nashville, TN) in 2009, and a “surfing culture” plaque on the Surfing Walk of Fame (Huntington Beach, CA) in 2011. Frank Sinatra even offered to manage Dick Dale in the early days.
A teetotaler who claims to have never used illicit drugs, Dick Dale is a 79-year-old cancer survivor and fitness devotee who’s on a “tour-or-die” mission to support himself and wife Lana. Both of them face daunting medical conditions (she has MS) and related expenses. Dale has long practiced karate and other martial arts, which he credits for his longevity and continuing virtuosity. In addition to surf-guitar classics, Dale and his band cover a wide range of artists, from Johnny Cash to Deep Purple. A boyhood fan of Hank Williams, Dale’s musical tastes are eclectic and his set-list is non-existent.
“I’m faster with my hands than I’ve ever been,” he told Billboard magazine in 2015. And you can witness his dexterity for yourself this Friday night at the High Noon Saloon.