Dean James at Right Wing Tribune
It is with great sadness to report that Dick Dale, “the King of the Surf Guitar,” has died at the age of 81.
No cause of death was revealed, but the guitarist suffered from health issues in recent years. In 2010, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer, and in an interview that went viral, Dale said in 2015 that “I can’t stop touring because I will die” due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. “I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that’s on top of the insurance that I pay for,” Dale said at the time, Rolling Stone reported.
Dick passed away Saturday, according to Sam Bolle, Dick’s live bassist. Sam tells TMZ, “He was an original, he always did things the way he wanted to do them … his own way. Long before punk rock, he was doing that.”
A pioneer in music — who was known as the King of Surf Guitar — Dick spearheaded the surf rock sound that became globally popular through the Beach Boys and other bands in the ’60s. He had tons of solo records and also performed with a group called the Del-Tones.
He pioneered and created what many call the surf music style, drawing on Middle-Eastern music scales and experimenting with reverberation. He worked closely with Fender to produce custom made amplifiers, including the first-ever 100-watt guitar amplifier. 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.”
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. 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, he was probably the first performer to jump from the volume scale of a smaller amplifier to levels most amplifiers and loudspeakers could not attain. 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!
Dick Dale stated his two passions, Surfing and Guitar, by saying:
“There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing and that feeling of power was simply transferred into my guitar when I was playing surf music. The style of music I developed, to me at the time, was the feeling I got when I was out there on the waves. It was good rambling feeling I got when I was locked in a tube with the white water caving in over my head. I was trying to project the power of the ocean to the people. I couldn’t get the feeling by singing, so the music took an instrumental form.”
Dick also made multiple TV appearances over the course of his career with performances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Hollywood a Go Go,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and others music-variety/talk shows.
Dick is credited with inspiring other legendary guitarists, like Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. Oh, and every other surf rock band that ever existed — them too.
Rest in peace brother and thanks for the memories.