Dick Dale

Dick Dale
Dick Dale, Viva Las Vegas, 2013-03-30 IMG 8131 (8605847986).jpg
Dale at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 2013
Background information
Birth nameRichard Anthony Monsour
Also known asThe King of the Surf Guitar
Born(1937-05-04)May 4, 1937
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 16, 2019(2019-03-16) (aged 81)
Loma Linda Hospital, Loma Linda, California, U.S.
GenresSurf rock, proto-punk, instrumental rock, rock and roll
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals, piano, trumpet
Years active1955–2019
LabelsCapitol, GNP Crescendo Records, Deltone
Associated actsDel-Tones

Richard Anthony Monsour (May 4, 1937 – March 16, 2019), known professionally as Dick Dale, was an American rock guitarist. He was a pioneer of surf music, drawing on Middle Eastern music scales and experimenting with reverberation. Dale was known as "The King of the Surf Guitar", which was also the title of his second studio album.

Dale worked closely with the manufacturer Fender to produce custom-made amplifiers[1] including the first-ever 100-watt guitar amplifier.[2] He pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop equipment that was capable of producing a louder guitar sound without sacrificing reliability.[1]

Early life

Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1937. He was of Lebanese descent from his father, James,[3] and of Polish-Belarusian descent from his mother, Sophia "Fern" (Danksewicz).[3][4][5][6] His family subsequently moved to Quincy, Massachusetts. He learned the piano when he was nine after listening to his aunt playing it.[7][8] He was given a trumpet in seventh grade, and later acquired a ukulele (for $6 part exchange), after having become influenced by Hank Williams.[9][10] The first song he played on the ukulele was "Tennessee Waltz".[9][10] He was also influenced musically by his uncle, who taught him how to play the tarabaki and could play the oud.[11][12][13]

Dale then bought a guitar from a friend for $8, paying him back by installments. He learned to play the instrument, using both lead and rhythm styles, so that the guitar filled the place of drums. His early tarabaki drumming later influenced his guitar playing, particularly his rapid alternate picking technique. Dale referred to this as "the pulsation", noting all instruments he played derived from the tarabaki.[13] He was raised in Quincy until he completed the eleventh grade at Quincy High School in 1954, when his father, a machinist, took a job working for Hughes Aircraft Company in the Southern California aerospace industry.[14][15][10] The family moved to El Segundo, California. Dale spent his senior year at and graduated from Washington Senior High School.[16] He learned to surf at the age of 17.[17][17] As a Lebanese-American, he retained a strong interest in Arabic music, which later played a major role in his development of surf rock music.[13]



Dale began playing in local country western rockabilly bars where he met Texas Tiny in 1955,[18] who gave him the name "Dick Dale" because he thought it was a good name for a country singer.[19]

Fender Showman (On loan from Dick Dale)

Dale employed non-Western scales in his playing. He regularly used reverb, which became a trademark of surf guitar. Being left-handed, Dale tried to play a right-handed guitar, but then changed to a left handed model.[11] However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down, often playing by reaching over the fretboard, rather than wrapping his fingers up from underneath. He partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment, later saying "When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption." His combination of loud amplifiers and heavy gauge strings led him to be called the "Father of Heavy Metal".[10] After blowing up several Fender amplifiers, Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares saw Dale play at the Rendezvous Ballroom, Balboa, California and identified the problem arose from him creating a sound louder than the audience screaming. The pair visited the James B. Lansing loudspeaker company and asked for a custom 15-inch loudspeaker, which became the JBL D130F model, and was known as the Single Showman Amp. Dale's combination of a Fender Stratocaster and Fender Showman Amp allowed him to attain significantly louder volume levels unobtainable by then-conventional equipment.[20]

Dale's performances at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa in mid to late 1961 are credited with the creation of the surf music phenomenon. Dale obtained permission to use the 3,000 person capacity ballroom for surfer dances after overcrowding at a local ice cream parlor where he performed made him seek other venues.[21] The Rendezvous ownership and the city of Newport Beach agreed to Dale's request on the condition that he prohibit alcohol sales and implement a dress code. Dale's events at the ballrooms, called "stomps," quickly became legendary, and the events routinely sold out.[21]

"Let's Go Trippin'" is one of the first surf rock songs.[22] 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."[23] His second album was named after his performing nickname, "King of the Surf Guitar".[24]

Dale later said "There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing and that feeling of power was simply transferred into my guitar". His playing style reflected the experience he had when surfing, and projecting the power of the ocean to people.[25]

Dale and the Del-Tones performed both sides of his Capitol single, "Secret Surfin' Spot" in the 1963 movie, Beach Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.[26] The group performed the songs "My First Love," "Runnin' Wild" and "Muscle Beach" in the 1964 film, Muscle Beach Party.[27]

Later career

Dale performing in 2006

Surf rock's national popularity was somewhat brief, as the British Invasion began to overtake the American charts in 1964. Though he continued performing live, Dale developed colorectal cancer.[27] In the liner notes of Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology, Dale quoted Jimi Hendrix saying, "Then you'll never hear surf music again" in response to hearing he might be terminally ill. Dale covered "Third Stone from the Sun" as a tribute to Hendrix.[28] Though he recovered, he retired from music for several years. In 1979, he almost lost a leg after a pollution-related infection of a mild swimming injury. 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.[27]

The use of "Misirlou" in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction gained him a new audience. The following year, John Peel praised his playing following a gig in the Garage, London.[29] Peel later selected "Let's Go Trippin'" as the theme tune for his BBC Radio 4 series Home Truths.[30] The same year, 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.[31]

In 2009, Dale was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.[32] Dale is also a 2011 inductee into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California, in the Surf Culture category.[33]

In June 2009, 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 then-17-year-old son, Jimmie Dale on drums, who opened for him. He was scheduled to play the Australian One Great Night On Earth festival to raise funds to benefit those affected by the Black Saturday bushfires and other natural disasters.[34]

Dale said that he was forced to keep touring to the end of his life, because of his inability to afford his medical costs.[35][36] He had many health issues, including diabetes, renal failure, and vertebrae damage that made performing excruciatingly painful.[37] At the time of his death, Dale had tour dates scheduled into November 2019.[35]

Personal life

Dale was married three times. First wife Jeannie in the 1970's was a Tahitian dancer in Hawaii and provided back up vocals for the 1975 release Spanish Eyes.[38] Together they created a musical revue and toured at resorts in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe. From the proceeds, Dale and wife Jeannie made successful investments in nightclubs and real estate allowing Dale to purchase his three-story 17 room dream mansion at 'the Wedge' located in Newport Beach at the tip of the Balboa Peninsula and mouth to Newport Harbor. Jeannie toured with Dale and his Deltones through the early 80's up until their very public and bitter divorce in 1984 which depleted much of Dale's accumulated wealth.[39]

He met his second wife Jill, a veterinary assistant, at a Huntington Harbour, Ca party in 1986.[40] Together they had son, James (Jimmy), born in 1992 and they lived at Dale's Sky Ranch in Twentynine Palms, Ca. Dale credits Jill for his transition from Surf Rock to a more raw and stripped down style that consisted of just him and two other musicians. Jill also provided back up vocals and drum tracks for Dale's 1993 Tribal Thunder [41] and 1996 Calling Up Spirits albums.[citation needed]

Dale married third wife Lana in 2011. He said that he never used alcohol or other drugs, for health reasons, and discouraged their use by band members and road crew. In 1972, he stopped eating red meat. He studied Kenpo karate for over 30 years.[20][42][13][43] In early 2008, he experienced a recurrence of colorectal cancer and completed a surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment regimen.[44]


Dale died in Loma Linda, California at Loma Linda Hospital with his wife Lana Dale by his side on March 16, 2019 at 10:15PM, at the age of 81.[29][45] He was treated for heart failure and kidney failure prior to his death.[6]


Studio albums

Live albums

  • Rock Out with Dick Dale & His Del-Tones Live at Ciro's (Capitol, 1965; Sundazed [LP only], 2010)
  • The Tigers Loose (Balboa, 1983; Rhino [LP only], 1987)
  • Live on the Santa Monica Pier (Rockbeat, 1994/1996 [rel. 2014]) 2CD


  • Greatest Hits (GNP Crescendo [LP issue], 1975; GNP Crescendo [CD issue], 1992)
  • King of the Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (Rhino [LP issue], 1986; Rhino [CD issue], 1989)
  • Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology (Rhino, 1997) 2CD
  • Singles Collection '61–'65 (Sundazed, 2010) 2LP
  • Guitar Legend: The Very Best of Dick Dale (Shout! Factory, 2010)
  • King of the Surf Guitar (Rockbeat, 2012) 2LP; 1CD
  • At the Drags (Rockbeat, 2012) 2LP; 1CD
  • Misirlou: Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (Jasmine, 2018)


Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label & number Album US Pop Chart[47]
1958 "Ooh-Whee-Marie"
b/w "Breaking Heart"
Deltone 5012 Non-album tracks -
1959 "Stop Teasing"
b/w "Without Your Love"
Deltone 5013
1960 "We'll Never Hear The End Of It"
b/w "The Fairest Of Them All"
Concert Room 371; Cupid 103
"St. Louis Blues"
b/w "Jesse Pearl"
Deltone 5014
1961 "Let's Go Trippin'"
b/w "Del-Tone Rock" (Non-album track)
Deltone 5017 Surfer's Choice 60
1962 "Jungle Fever"
b/w "Shake-N-Stomp" (from Surfer's Choice)
Deltone 5018 Non-album tracks
b/w "Eight Till Midnight"
Deltone 5019; Capitol 4939
"Peppermint Man"
b/w "Surf Beat"
Deltone 5020; Capitol 4940 Surfer's Choice
1963 "King Of The Surf Guitar"
b/w "Hava Nagila"
Capitol 4963 King Of The Surf Guitar
"Surfin' and A-Swingin'"
b/w "Secret Surfin' Spot"
Capitol 5010 Non-album tracks
"The Scavenger"
b/w "Wild Ideas" (Non-album track)
Capitol 5048 Checkered Flag 98
"The Wedge"
b/w "Night Rider"
Capitol 5098
1964 "Mr. Eliminator"
b/w "The Victor"
Capitol 5140 Mr. Eliminator
"Wild Wild Mustang"
b/w "Grudge Run" (from Checkered Flag)
Capitol 5187 Non-album track
"Glory Wave"
b/w "Never On Sunday"
Capitol 5225 Summer Surf
"Oh Marie"
b/w "Who Can He Be"
Capitol 5290 Non-album tracks
1965 "Let's Go Trippin' 65"
b/w "Watusi Jo" (from Live at Ciro's)
Capitol 5389
1966 "A Run For Life"
b/w "Lovin' On My Brain"
Deltone 5028
1967 "Taco Wagon"
b/w "Spanish Kiss"
Cougar 712
1975 "Let's Go Trippin'"
b/w "Those Memories Of You"
GNP Crescendo 804 Greatest Hits
1987 "Pipeline" (with Stevie Ray Vaughan)
b/w "Love Struck Baby" by Stevie Ray Vaughan (Non-album track)
Columbia 38-07340 Back To The Beach (soundtrack)



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  18. ^ "Guy Norris "Texas Tiny" Cherry (1917–1971) – Find..." Findagrave.com. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
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  32. ^ Gilbert October 13, 2009, Calvin. "Rascal Flatts Perform With Toto During Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony". CMT News. Archived from the original on October 31, 2014.
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  42. ^ "2017 Inductees – Kenpo Karate Hall of Fame". Kkhof.com. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
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Further reading

External links

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