Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar – RIP


Sadly Dick Dale has shed this mortal coil. Apparently he died from heart failure on Saturday the 16th March 2019. There’s not been a great deal of activity on his site of late, and I wondered whether he was poorly again. Dick’s cancer returned with a vengeance over the last ten years or so but he continued to perform even tho he had developed Diabetes too. Beyond his obvious continued love of performing, the massive cost of his medical treatment made playing gigs something of a necessity.

I discovered Dick Dale in the late seventies: a lady friend’s parents had 2 copies of “Muscle Beach party” in their record collection and I managed to blag one. The Annette Funicello beach movies of the early 1960’s held a kitsch fascination for me, and when Dick sang “Well I looked on the beach, there was nothin’ but chicks” ( from “Swingin’ and A-Surfin'” ) in the Beach Party film, from there on in he was a massive influence.

But of course, it was Dick Dale’s guitar prowess that he’ll be remembered for. I introduced Jem and Ian to Dick Dale when I joined the Surf Rats. and eventually Jem became a full on DD obsessive, trying to replicate his sound with the original amplification, a Fender dual Showman and an outboard Fender reverb unit, a thing of great beauty to a vintage gear enthusiast.

Jem relentlessly studied Dick Dale’s sound and tried to get inside it. You can judge for yourself how well he did here:-

As I previously documented in Jem’s tribute piece, I got to meet Dick Dale several times. When Jem and I met him, at the Garage in London in August 1995, he’d just come off stage and was obviously cranked on crowd energy. He spoke with a clear, well enunciated Boston accent with a Californian edge and perhaps a little bit of his Father’s Lebanese tones. His long pony tailed hair and chiselled features made him look like a native American Indian. He obviously still worked out and was muscular and fit, and his arm muscles were the size of my thighs!  Jem said Dick Dale’s arms were as powerful as Robocop’s! He smelt good too, a strong musky masculine smell.


The influence that Dick Dale has had on my life is immeasurable. For me he’s up there with Godzilla, or Brian Wilson, or Batman or Johnny Ramone. He’s a Pop culture icon and I’m immensely proud I got to meet and talk to him. He said Jimi Hendrix had once asked his advice about guitars: how ultimately cool is that? And of course Dick loved animals and at one time had a small menagerie of Lions, Tigers, Elephants and lots of other exotic beasts at his home, a place he called The Sky Ranch. He should’ve been a Wombwell!

Dick Dale was everything I wanted to be: a champion surfer, a super powered guitarist and a major animal lover.

Dick Dale represents to me the ultimate post beatnik, post Elvis Rock’n’Roll cool, a Rock’n’Roll God in human form.

Thank you Dick Dale. May you Surf the Rock’n’Roll Cosmos for eternity……

“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”.

One Response to “Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar – RIP”

  1. I need to say something else about Dick Dale’s guitar playing: I guess a big part of it’s appeal for me was that it had an almost Punk energy: a relentless, thrashing, screaming, super charged noise. It had Raw Power and a speed rivalled only by the Ramones……

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