Monday, May 4, 2009

The King Of The Surf Guitar

... is 72 years old today!

Surf rock guitarist Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour on May 4, 1937, to a Lebanese father and a Polish mother in Boston, Massachusetts.
Dale and his family moved to Orange County, California in 1954. It was there that he learned to surf and became interested in music.He soon learned to play the drums, the ukulele, the trumpet and finally the guitar. 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 and he is often credited as one of the first electric guitarists to employ non-Western scales in his playing.

Dale, an amateur surfer, wanted his music to reflect the sounds he heard in his mind while surfing.Being left-handed, he was initially forced to play a right-handed guitar, much like Jimi Hendrix would do a few years later. However, he did so without restringing the instrument, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down.

Dick Dale's desire to create a certain sound would lead him to push the limits of his equipment:

"Leo Fender kept giving Dale amps and Dale kept blowing them up! Till one night Leo and his right hand man Freddy T. (Freddy Tavares) went down to the Rendezvous Ballroom on the Balboa Peninsula in Balboa, California and stood in the middle of Four Thousand screaming 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 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 creature 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!"
[quoted from the official Dick Dale Web site.]

Surf rock became nationally popular in the United States briefly, but then British Invasion began to overtake the American charts in 1964. Dale continued performing live, but was soon set back by rectal cancer. He recovered, and retired from music for a time. In 1979, he almost lost a leg after being injured while swimming; a pollution-related infection made the mild injury much worse. As a result, Dale became an environmental activist and soon began performing again.
Dick Dale is also an accomplished Horseman, Exotic Animal Trainer, Surfer, Martial Arts Expert, Archer, and Pilot.

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