Culture Wikia
This article is about the surf guitarist. For the saxophonist-singer, see Dick Dale (singer).

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Dick Dale
Dale at the The Middle East, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005
Dale at the The Middle East, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2005
Background information
Birth nameRichard Anthony Monsour
Also known asThe King of the Surf Guitar
Born (1937-05-04) May 4, 1937 (age 87)
Boston, Massachusetts
GenresSurf rock, protopunk, instrumental rock, rock and roll[1]
Occupation(s)Musician, guitarist
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1959–present
LabelsCapitol, GNP Crescendo, Deltone
Associated actsDel-Tones


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 pioneered the surf music style, drawing on Eastern musical scales and experimenting with reverberation. He worked closely with 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 new equipment that was capable of producing distorted, "thick, clearly defined tones" at "previously undreamed-of volumes." The "breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique" and showmanship with the guitar is considered a precursor to heavy metal music, influencing guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.[1]

Early life[]

Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1937,[3] although many biographies of Dale repeat his earlier assertion that he was born in Beirut, Lebanon.[3] He is of Lebanese descent from his father and Polish-Belarusian descent from his mother.[4] His father was born in Beirut, and his mother's parents came to the U.S. from Poland; they farmed in Whitman, Massachusetts. Dale's family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts, which had a significant Lebanese immigrant community, when Dale was very young. He learned to play music, starting with piano when he was nine.[3] Dale admired Hank Williams—he wanted to be a cowboy singer—so he bought a plastic ukulele for $6 and taught himself to play by reading an instruction book. The first song he played on the ukulele was "Tennessee Waltz". He then learned to play guitar, using a combination style incorporating both lead and rhythm aspects, so that the guitar filled the place of drums. He was raised in Quincy until he completed the 11th grade at Quincy High School in 1954, when his machinist father took a job in the Southern California aerospace industry. His parents drove the family across the country to live in El Segundo, California. Dale spent his senior year at and graduated from Washington Senior High School.[5] It was in Southern California that he learned to surf at the age of 17.[6] He soon learned to play the drums and the trumpet.[7] Due to his Lebanese heritage, he also had a strong interest in Arabic music, which later played a major role in his development of surf rock music.[8]


Among his early musical influences was his uncle.[9] According to Dale, "My uncle taught me how to play the tarabaki, and I watched him play the oud. We used to play at the Maharjan [an annual Lebanese festival in Greater Boston] while relatives belly-danced." His early tarabaki drumming later influenced his guitar playing, particularly his rapid alternating picking technique. According to Dale, "It's the pulsation," stating that whether he is playing the guitar, trumpet, or piano, "they all have that drumming beat I learned by playing the tarabaki."[8]

Dale is credited as one of the first electric guitarists to employ fast scales in his playing. Dale was a surfer and wanted his music to reflect the sounds he heard in his mind while surfing. He was among the first guitarists to use reverb—which gave the guitar a "wet" sound that has become a staple of surf music. Dale's staccato picking, however, is his trademark. Being left-handed, he initially had to play a right-handed guitar, but then changed to a left handed model.[9] However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down (Hendrix, for example, restrung his guitar), often playing by reaching over the fretboard rather than wrapping his fingers up from underneath. Dale is also noted for playing his percussive, heavy bending style, using what most guitarists consider very heavy gauge strings (16p, 18p, 20p. 38w, 48w, 58w[10] 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. <templatestyles src="Template:Blockquote/styles.css" />

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. They went to James B. Lansing loudspeaker company and explained that they wanted a fifteen inch loudspeaker built to their specifications. The unit became famous as the 15" JBL D130F model. 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 loudspeaker 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![11]

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 made him seek other venues.[12] 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.[12] Paul Johnson, guitarist for the contemporary group The Bel-Airs, recalled the electric atmosphere of the shows:

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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.[12]

"Let's Go Trippin'" is often regarded as the first surf rock song.[13] 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. 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."[14] His second album was named after his performing nickname, "King of the Surf Guitar".

Dick Dale and The Del-Tones performed the songs "My First Love," "Runnin' Wild" and "Muscle Beach" in the 1964 film, Muscle Beach Party.

Dale and the Del-Tones performed both sides of his Capitol single, "Secret Surfin' Spot" / "Surfin' and Swingin'" in the popular 1963 movie, Beach Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. This helped bring Dale, surf music, and surf culture to national prominence. He also appeared in the 1987 film, Back to the Beach—in which Avalon's character, reluctant to attend a Dick Dale concert, remarks to Funicello, "We can come back here in the year 2000 and see Dick!"—a testimony to Dale's continued popularity and career longevity.

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 was soon set back by rectal cancer. In the liner notes of Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology, the thought, "Then you'll never hear surf music again," was Jimi Hendrix's reaction upon hearing that Dale had 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.[15] 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" on a vinyl single by a Southern California indie band, The Pagodas. 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, playing 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" also features 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 (in a parody of the Pulp Fiction characters Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield) shoot out teeth from one of the Monstars, a clip from "Misirlou" plays.

In 2009, Dale was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.[16] Dale is also a 2011 inductee into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California, in the Surf Culture category.[17]

Personal life[]

Dale said in the 1990s that he was not born in Beirut, Lebanon, as he had been telling interviewers for decades. He said he was born in Boston.[3]

Dale has said that he has never used alcohol or other drugs and discourages their use by band members and road crew. Health was a priority for him. In 1972, he stopped eating red meat. He studied martial arts for over 30 years.[11][18] At age 78 he is still putting on physically energetic live shows.[7][8][19] In early 2008, he experienced a recurrence of rectal cancer and finished a surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment regimen.[20]

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.[21] Dale continues to perform at venues across the U.S. into 2016 [22] in order to pay for medical bills.[23]


In addition to Fender amplifiers, 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 and intended to recreate the sound of the first Stratocaster. Dale used a reverb unit with the signal split between two Fender Dual Showman amps. As of 2010, Dale continued to play with his original reverb unit and Showman amps from the early 1960s, continuing his practice of stringing his left-handed guitar upside down. The unique features of this guitar include a toggle switch that bypasses the three 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)
  • Tribal Thunder (HighTone 1993)
  • Unknown Territory (HighTone 1994)
  • Calling Up Spirits (Beggars Banquet 1996)
  • Spacial Disorientation (Dick Dale Records / The Orchard 2001)


  • The Silver Sounds Of The Surf (Cloister Records 1963)
  • Wild Hot Rod Wails (Diplomat Records 1964)


Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label & number Album
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"
Cupid 103
"St. Louis Blues"
b/w "Jesse Pearl"
Deltone 5014
1961 "Let's Go Trippin'"
b/w "Del-Tone Rock"
Deltone 5017 Surfer's Choice
1962 "Jungle Fever"
b/w "Shake-N-Stomp" (from Surfer's Choice)
Deltone 5018 Non-album tracks
b/w "Eight Till Midnight"
Deltone 5019
"Peppermint Man"
b/w "Surf Beat"
Deltone 5020 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
"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"
Capitol 5389
1966 "A Run For Life"
b/w "Lovin' On My Brain"
Deltone 5028
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 07340 "Back To The Beach" soundtrack

Compilations and lives[]

  • Hot Rod Music on Capitol (Capitol 1963)
  • The Big Surfin' Sounds on Capitol (Capitol 1964)
  • Rock Out with Dick Dale and His Del-Tones: Live at Ciro's (Capitol 1965)
  • Greatest Hits (GNP Crescendo 1975)
  • Golden Summer (United Artists 1976)
  • The Tigers Loose (Balboa 1983) [live album]
  • 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)
  • The Phantom Surfers and Dick Dale - Conquer Your World! (Groovie Records 2011)


  • Pulp Fiction Soundtrack (MCA 1994)

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.[24]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Huey, Steve. "Dick Dale". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  2. History Archived September 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Dick Dale official website
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Larkin, Colin (2000). The encyclopedia of popular music. Oxford University. p. 699. ISBN 0195313739.
  4. Porter, James; Austen, Jake (1994). "The really bitching tale of Dick Dale as told by the man himself". Roctober Magazine.
  5. Crowe, Julia (2012). My First Guitar: Tales of True Love and Lost Chords from 70 Legendary Musicians. ECW Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN 1770902759.
  6. Hodgins, Paul (March 21, 2009). "Guitar Screams On". Orange County Register. p. News 15.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hodgins, Paul (March 20, 2009). "Dick Dale is still darn loud". Orange County Register. p. News 15.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 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. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Dick Dale – Discover music, videos, concerts, stats, & pictures at". 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  10. Dick Dale interview, Fresh Air, WHYY/NPR, 26 July 1993, rebroadcast 25 May 2007.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Official website". Retrieved 2012-03-03.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Rendezvous Ballroom". Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  13. Marsh, Dave (2004). Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8.
  14. "Washed out for a decade, surf's up again," Los Angeles Times, 1 February 1981.
  15. Dick Dale, Better Shred Than Dead: The Dick Dale Anthology (Rhino Records, 1997), liner notes to Disc 2, Track 12.
  16. CMT : News : Rascal Flatts Perform With Toto During Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Archived October 31, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  17. Carroll, Corky (June 9, 2011). "Walk of Fame inductee list one of the best ever". The Orange County Register.
  18. Brainyquote, Dick Dale[dead link]
  19. "At 78 and with myriad health issues, surf-rock legend Dick Dale plays through the pain Archived March 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine" Pittsburg City Paper, July 29, 2015.
  20. "Play One For Dick Dale" Archived January 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine,
  21. "All hail the great Dick Dale!". May 16, 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  22. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-24. Retrieved 2016-01-06. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2015-05-23. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. Dick Dale Archived March 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at the BBC Radio 1 John Peel minisite


  • Burt, Rob (1986). "Surf City, Drag City". Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1890-0. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Szatmary, David (1987). "Rockin' in Time: A Social History of Rock-and-Roll". Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-188790-4. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External links[]

Template:Dick Dale