Dick Dale

Dick Dale
Dick Dale

Dick Dale circa 1962
Background information
Also known as Richard Anthony Monsour
Born May 4, 1937 (1937-05-04) (age 74)
Boston, Massachusetts
Genres Surf rock, rock and roll, instrumental rock
Occupations Musician, Guitarist
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1959—present
Labels Capitol
Associated acts Del-Tones
Website dickdale.com
Notable instruments
Dick Dale Stratocaster
Fender Showman

Dick Dale (born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4, 1937) is an American 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.[1]


Early life

Dale was born in South Boston, Massachusetts and lived in nearby Quincy until the eleventh grade. He is of Lebanese, Polish and Belarusian descent (however, his father was not born in Lebanon).[2] He and his family moved to Orange County, California in 1954. He learned to surf and became interested in music.[3] He soon learned to play the drums, the ukulele, the trumpet, and finally the guitar.[4]


Among his early musical influences was his uncle, an oud player performing belly dance music. Much of his early music shows a Middle Eastern influence; Dale is often credited as one of the first electric guitarists to employ non-Western scales in his playing.[5] Dale himself was a surfer and wanted his music to reflect the sounds he heard in his mind while surfing. While he is primarily known for introducing the use of guitar reverb that would give the guitar a "wet" sound, which has since become a staple of surf music, it was Dale's staccato picking that was his trademark. Since Dale is left-handed, he was initially forced to play a right-handed model, like Jimi Hendrix. His outrageous styling on stage was an influence on the young Hendrix. [6] However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down (while Hendrix would restring his guitar), and he often played by reaching over the fretboard rather than wrapping his fingers up from underneath. Even after he acquired a proper left-handed guitar, Dale continued to use his reverse stringing. Dale is also noted for playing his percussive, heavy bending style while using what are, for most guitarists, extremely heavy gauge string sets (16p, 18p, 20p. 38w, 48w, 58w;[7] guitar string manufacturers do not make string sets for standard tuned electric guitars heavier than 13 to 56).

His desire to create a certain sound led him to push the limits of equipment:

Leo Fender kept giving Dale amps and Dale kept blowing them up! Till one night Leo and his right hand man Freddy T. (Freddie Tavares) went down to the Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa Peninsula in Balboa, California and stood in the middle of four thousand screaming and dancing Dick Dale fans, and said to Freddy, I now know what Dick Dale is trying to tell me. Back to the drawing board. A special 85 watt output transformer, manufactured by the Triad Transformer Company, was made that peaked 100 watts, when Dale would pump up the volume of his amp, this transformer would create the sounds along with Dale's style of playing, the kind of sounds that Dale dreamed of. But they now needed a speaker that would handle the power and not burn up from the volume that would come from Dale's guitar.

Leo, Freddy and Dale went to the James B. Lansing speaker company, and they explained that they wanted a fifteen inch speaker built to their specifications. That speaker would soon be known as the 15" JBL D130 speaker. It made the complete package for Dale to play through and was named the Single Showman Amp. When Dale plugged his Fender Stratocaster guitar into the new Showman Amp and speaker cabinet, Dale became the first person on earth to jump from the volume scale of a modest quiet guitar player on a scale of 4 to blasting up through the volume scale to TEN! That is when Dale became the "Father of Heavy Metal" as quoted from Guitar Player magazine. Dale broke through the electronic barrier limitations of that era![8]

During a six month period that began July 1, 1961, Dale's performances at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa are credited with the creation of the surf music phenomenon. Dale asked for and gained permission to use the 3,000 person capacity ballroom for surfer dances after overcrowding at a local ice cream parlor, where he performed, caused him to seek other venues.[9] The Rendezvous ownership and city of Newport Beach only agreed to Dale's request under the condition that alcohol sales would be prohibited and a dress code followed. Dale's events at the ballrooms, called "stomps", quickly became legendary and the ballroom was routinely sold out.[9] Paul Johnson, guitarist for the contemporary group The Bel-Airs, recalled the electric atmosphere of the shows:

I remember making the trek to the Rendezvous in the summer of '61 to see what all the fuss was about over Dick Dale. It was a powerful experience; his music was incredibly dynamic, louder and more sophisticated than The Belairs, and the energy between The Del-Tones and all of those surfers stomping on the hardwood floor in their sandals was extremely intense. The tone of Dale's guitar was bigger than any I had ever heard, and his blazing technique was something to behold.[9]

"Let's Go Trippin'" is often regarded as the first surf rock song.[10] This was followed by more locally released songs, including "Jungle Fever" and "Surf Beat" on his own Deltone label. His first full-length album was Surfers' Choice in 1962. The album was picked up by Capitol Records and distributed nationally, and Dale soon began appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, and in films where he played his signature single "Misirlou". He later stated, "I still remember the first night we played it ("Misirlou"). I changed the tempo, and just started cranking on that mother. And...it was eerie. The people came rising up off the floor, and they were chanting and stomping. I guess that was the beginning of the surfer's stomp."[11] His second album was named after his performing nickname, King of the Surf Guitar.

Though surf rock became nationally popular in the United States briefly, the British Invasion began to overtake the American charts in 1964. Though he continued performing live, Dale was soon set back by rectal cancer. In the liner notes of Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology, the line "Then you'll never hear surf music again" was Hendrix's reaction upon hearing that Dale was battling a possibly terminal case of colon cancer, intended to encourage his comrade to recuperate. Dale, in gratitude to his late friend, later covered "Third Stone from the Sun" as a tribute to Hendrix.[12] Though he recovered, he retired from music for several years. In 1979, he almost lost a leg after being injured while swimming and a pollution-related infection made the mild injury much worse. As a result, Dale became an environmental activist and soon began performing again. He recorded a new album in 1986 and was nominated for a Grammy. In 1987 he appeared in the movie Back to the Beach, playing surf music and performing "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan. In 1993 he recorded a guitar solo on the track "Should Have Known" by Southern California indie band The Pagodas which was released as a vinyl single. The use of "Misirlou" in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction gained him a new audience.

In 1995, he recorded a surf-rock version of Camille Saint-Saëns's "Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals for the musical score of the enclosed roller coaster, Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. In 1997, Dale appeared in the campy cult film An American Vampire Story performing a rousing guitar solo on the beach with his son on drums. In 2002, Dale appeared in The True Meaning of Christmas Specials. He played several original songs for the program.

The National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche use Dale's song "Scalped" as their theme song. The Black Eyed Peas' song "Pump It" (from the 2005 album Monkey Business) heavily samples Dale's "Misirlou". "Misirlou" is also featured in the PlayStation 2/Xbox 360 video game, Guitar Hero II, as well as the Wii video game Rayman Raving Rabbids. In the feature film Space Jam, as Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam shoot out teeth from one of the Monstars, a clip from "Misirlou" is played.

Dale is a 2011 inductee into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California in the Surf Culture category.[13]


Dale says he has never used alcohol or drugs, and discourages use by band members and road crew. Health is a priority for him; 39 years ago he stopped eating red meat, and he has studied martial arts for 30 years.[8][14] At age 74 he still puts on a physically energetic live show.[4][15] In early 2008, Dick experienced a recurrence of rectal cancer and has finished a surgical, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.[16] By June, 2009 Dick Dale began a West Coast tour from Southern California to British Columbia, with approximately 20 concert dates. "Forever Came Calling" or FCC, featured Dale's 17-year-old son, Jimmy Dale on drums, opening for him. (source: Dale's official website and Dale live onstage in Ventura, CA, 6/14/09).Dick is presently performing at venues across the U.S. on his 2011 Tour along with his 19 year old son Jimmy Dale.

Dale has resided in Twentynine Palms, California for over 25 years.[citation needed]


As well as the Fender amplifiers mentioned, Dale is associated with the Fender Stratocaster guitar. Fender makes a signature model, the Dick Dale Custom Shop Stratocaster, fitted with "Custom Shop '54" pickups, which are supposed to recreate the sound of the first "Strats". Dick uses a reverb unit with the signal split between two Fender Dual Showman amps. As of 2010, Dale continues to play with his original reverb unit and Showman amps from the early 1960s. Dale is notable for stringing his left-handed guitar upside down. The unique features of this guitar include a toggle switch: bypasses 3-position blade switch to activate neck and middle pickups only.



  • Surfers' Choice (Deltone 1962)
  • King of the Surf Guitar (Capitol 1963)
  • Checkered Flag (Capitol 1963)
  • Mr. Eliminator (Capitol 1964)
  • Summer Surf (Capitol 1964)
  • Rock out with Dick Dale and his Del-Tones: Live at Ciro's (Capitol 1965)
  • The Tiger's Loose (Balboa 1983) [live album]
  • Tribal Thunder (HighTone 1993)
  • Unknown Territory (HighTone 1994)
  • Calling Up Spirits (Beggars Banquet 1996)
  • Spacial Disorientation (Dick Dale Records / The Orchard 2001)


  • Ooh-Whee Marie (Deltone 1959)
  • Stop Teasing (Deltone 1959)
  • Jesse Pearl (Deltone 1960)
  • Let's Go Trippin' / Del-Tone Rock (Deltone 1961)
  • Jungle Fever / Shake-N-Stomp (Deltone 1961)
  • Misirlou / Eight 'Til Midnight (Deltone 1962)
  • Mr. Peppermint Man / Surf Beat (Capitol 1962)
  • Secret Surfin Spot / Surfin' and Swingin' (Capitol 1963)
  • The Wedge / Night Rider (Capitol 1963)
  • Mr. Eliminator (Capitol 1964)
  • Let's Go Trippin' '65 / Watusi Jo (Capitol 1965)
  • "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan, nominated for a Grammy


  • Hot Rod Music on Capitol (Capitol 1963)
  • The Big Surfin' Sounds on Capitol (Capitol 1964)
  • Golden Summer (United Artists 1976)
  • King of the Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale & The Del-Tones (Rhino 1989)
  • Cowabunga Surf Box Set (Rhino 1996)
  • Rocket Jockey (Rocket Science Games/SegaSoft 1996)
  • Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology (Rhino 1997)
  • MOM II Music for our Mother Ocean (Surf Dog Records 1997)
  • Guitar Legend: The Very Best of Dick Dale (Shout! Factory 2010)


Peel Sessions

Dick Dale made four recordings for John Peel's Peel Sessions:

  1. March 30, 1995 (Maida Vale 4)
  2. July 10, 1995 (3 Mcr.)
  3. August 28, 2002 (Maida Vale 4)
  4. March 24, 2004 (Maida Vale 4)

Peel later selected Let's Go Trippin' as the theme tune for his BBC Radio 4 series Home Truths.[17]


  1. ^ History at his official website
  2. ^ Porter, James and Austen, Jake (1994). "The really bitching tale of Dick Dale as told by the man himself". Roctober Magazine. http://www.roctober.com/roctober/greatness/dickdale.html. 
  3. ^ Hodgins, Paul (March 21, 2009). "Guitar Screams On". Orange County Register: p. News 15. 
  4. ^ a b Hodgins, Paul (March 20, 2009). "Dick Dale is still darn loud". Orange County Register: p. News 15. http://www.ocregister.com/entertainment/dale-73482-guitar-sound.html. 
  5. ^ Huey, Steve. "Dick Dale". allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p4016. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  6. ^ http://www.last.fm/music/Dick+Dale
  7. ^ Dick Dale interview, Fresh Air, WHYY/NPR, 26 July 1993, rebroadcast 25 May 2007.
  8. ^ a b Official website
  9. ^ a b c "Rendezvous Ballroom". Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. http://www.surfingmuseum.org/exhibit/reunion/rendezvous.html. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  10. ^ Marsh, Dave (2004). Brackett, Nathan and Hoard, Christian. ed. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 208. ISBN 9780743201698. http://books.google.com/books?id=lRgtYCC6OUwC&pg=PA208&dq=%22Let's%20Go%20Trippin'%22. 
  11. ^ "Washed out for a decade, surf's up again," Los Angeles Times, 1 February 1981.
  12. ^ Dick Dale, Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology (Rhino Records, 1997), liner notes to Disc 2, Track 12.
  13. ^ Carroll, Corky (June 9, 2011). "Walk of Fame inductee list one of the best ever". The Orange County Register. 
  14. ^ "Brainyquote, Dick Dale". http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/dickdale245983.html. 
  15. ^ Holgate, Steve (14 September 2006). "Guitarist Dick Dale Brought Arabic Folk Song to Surf Music". The Washington File. Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2006/September/20060914165844ndyblehs0.0821802.html. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  16. ^ "Play One For Dick Dale", surferspath.com
  17. ^ Dick Dale at the BBC Radio 1 John Peel minisite

External links

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