DICK DALE: THE GUITAR GOD KEEPS ROCKING!
The fact that Dick Dale has yet to be inducted reinforces the notion that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a sham. Dale is a force of nature who helped shape rock music.
The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville inducted him in 2009.
When we interviewed guitar legend Dick Dale in 2002, we marveled at the fact that, at age 65, he was still ripping it up on stages around the world. Eleven years later, following another bout with cancer, the indomitable Dale continues to rock up a storm. Like rock n roll itself, Dick Dales music will never die.
True originals are scarce in the music world. Dick Dale stands among them, larger than life, the Paul Bunyan of rock, a Fender Stratocaster as his ax. His high octane instrumentals, such as Miserlou, which fueled the film Pulp Fiction, have influenced guitarists for more than 40 years.
The guitar innovator marks his 65th birthday on May 4th, 2002. That may be the age of retirement for some. But Dale keeps rocking harder than ever. His fiery performances are the stuff of legends. Few young players can match his on-stage energy.
I get up there and all of a sudden the drive is there. Its like flying an F-16, says Dale, who happens to be a pilot. You just say, Go for it. Dont look back. I get caught up in this tremendous charge.
Dale thinks young. My brain never left 20, but my body aint buying it, he says with a laugh.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Dale has released a remarkable new album, Spacial Disorientation. It presents 16 dynamic, distinctive Dale performances.
Its like a musical roller coaster ride of emotions and sounds. Each song has to be a ten-plus, not just a filler. Every song is my best work. I finish an album and think, Ill never be able to record again, because Ive just done all my best stuff.
Spacial Disorientation roars into gear with such powerful Dale originals as HMFIC and The Eliminator, followed by a sizzling version of Deep Purples Smoke On The Water. But Dale doesnt always rock the Richter scale.
The album also contains acoustic gems, Latin and Middle Eastern flavors, down-home blues, a plaintive Dale vocal on Belo Horizonte and an exquisite rendition of Silent Night. He revels in variety.
Im always the rebel, going against the system. So I went against what they all told me to do. They said, If it aint broke, dont fix it. In other words, go with the same thing all the time. But I dont believe that. I can find something beautiful in every style of music I hear.
Dales shows draw diverse crowds. He says, If you go to a Dick Dale concert, youll see ages six to 106. All walks of life. Youll see teens with tattoos and body piercings next to college professors. Youll see an array of everybody.
Born Richard Monsour in Massachusetts, he taught himself to play a multitude of instruments, including drums, trumpet, trombone, sax, piano, accordion, ukulele, banjo and guitar. I had no formal study. I just get sounds out of instruments. I dont know an augmented ninth from a 13th. And who cares?
The people who come to see me, they dont know the difference either. They just know what they feel when I play something. Thats basically what its all about. I dont play to the perfectionados. I play to the grassroots people.
Dale and his parents moved to Southern California in 1954. He dabbled in country music. Then Dale met Leo Fender, the guitar and amplifier manufacturer. Fender handed him a new creation, the Stratocaster. It was like Thor getting his hammer.
The left-handed Dale, playing the instrument upside-down and backwards, conjured amazing thunder from it. His percussive, staccato strumming style can be traced to his childhood admiration of big band drumming great Gene Krupa.
Dale, an avid surfer, developed a sound that reflected the fearsome majesty of crashing waves. He began playing at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, packing four thousand screaming, dancing fans into the place every weekend. Dubbed King of the Surf Guitar, he inspired later surf acts, including the Beach Boys.
In 1961, Dales single Lets Go Trippin soared up the charts. But he wasnt hypnotized by the spotlight. I never wanted to tour. I was surfing every day, from sunup to sundown. I had lions and tigers and other animals. I didnt want to leave them. Music was only a window. One should have many windows in life.
Id rather be jack of all trades, but do them each well. That way your life is exciting. My curiosity has always driven me to delve into many different things.
Dale has always lived life to the fullest. Serving in the Air National Guard, he rescued downed aircraft crews and earned a Presidential Letter of Commendation
for his heroism. His wide-ranging interests include martial arts, horses, archery, environmentalism, the study of indigenous peoples, and preserving endangered
wildlife. His menagerie has included such exotic animals as ocelots, cheetahs and jaguars. A licensed pilot, he has two planes and private airstrips.
Even though he didnt focus narrowly on his career, Dales rise continued. With his band the Deltones, he continued to record electrifying rock instrumentals. He appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as in such movies as Beach Party and the Marilyn Monroe vehicle Lets Make Love.
In the mid-60s, cancer came close to wiping him out. But above all, Dale is a survivor. When Quentin Tarantino resurrected the 1962 Miserlou recording for his 1994 film Pulp Fiction, he lifted Dale from cult status to rock icon.
Most people make a movie first, then put the music to it, Dale says. Tarantino is different, unorthodox. He said, Dick Dale, Ive been a fan for years. I would like to have your permission to take Miserlou and use it as a motivating energy force to create a masterpiece of a movie to complement the masterpiece of your song. I said, Well, go for it. This is a guy whos had doors slammed in his face by the system. And Im always for the underdog.
He wrote the movie listening to Miserlou. Thats why it was the title song. The movie ended up doing $300 million and look what it did for John Travolta. Look what it did for Dick Dale.
It took Dale around the world. Adoring fans filled venues in Europe, Australia, Japan and South America, as well as the U.S. and Canada. Dale and his Stratocaster, affectionately known as The Beast, proved they could still thrill. His music now ignites many movies, TV shows, video games and commercials. Miserlu is a staple at major sports events.
Dale loves his home, but continues to tour. The connection with fans remains important to Dale. He answers countless e-mails sent to him through his www.dickdale.com web site and stays after performances to meet audience members.
He says, I was close with Elvis and Colonel Parker once said, To make somebody a big star, keep them away from the public and then they will become mysterious. But how long are we on this Earth? I believe, if somebody paid money to come and see me, why not step close to them, be friendly with them, talk with them and know them?
Spacial Disorientation is dedicated to a fan who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Accompanied by his parents and a nurse, this young man attends as many Dale concerts as possible. Dale says, Hes there on a gurney, with tubes coming out of his throat. He can only move his little fingers. Hes an inspiration. Weve become close.
I think Ive been kept alive for a reason -- to continue reaching people. If you can touch somebody with your music and make their day, what could be more important? Music is a tool that allows you to reach out. When Im out there playing, Im just trying to make people happy.
Dale pours his heart and soul into every performance. Theres a saying -- Youre only as good as your last show. Well, I believe that youre only as good as your next show. If somebody came to see you and now they come back, bringing a friend, you owe it to them to put on a show thats as good or better. Its a lot of pressure I put on myself.
Hes willing to subject himself to agony, to give his fans ecstasy. Ive gone through a lot of pain on stage. The faces I make when I play are not show business. Thats pain. Im pulling on 60-gauge strings, when most people play on six, seven, eight, nine, 10-gauge, little baby strings. They call my strings telephone wires. So when I play on those, the pain goes through the fingers really bad, through the calluses, then it touches the raw meat thats underneath. I play so hard that the guitar picks just melt down.
When I play my guitar, I dont play with my fingers like people like Clapton would. I play from my abdomen and its all muscular. So Ill pull on it and maybe pop my back or pop a rib out, because Im pulling down so hard on the guitar. I play very, very physical. One man told me, You look like youre chopping down a tree. Another man said, You look like your trying to exorcise Satan out of your body through the guitar. Its an energy force that I build inside.
He holds nothing back. Its like an explosion. My head pounds. Reaching for high notes singing, I can feel the blood in my vessels go. When I play the trumpet, same thing. Feels like the blood vessels are going to burst. A lot of great horn players died of hemorrhaging, aneurisms. Well, I cant stop or slow down. When I go for it, I go for it.
When I die, its not going to be in some rocking chair, holding a can of beer, with a gut on me. Itll be in one big explosion on stage and body parts flying everywhere.
While hes still in one piece, Dale will keep working. He stopped surfing years ago, when a wound suffered in polluted ocean waters nearly resulted in a foot amputation. But he welcomed the opportunity to play a surf shop owner in Local Boys. Music from Spacial Disorientation is used in that film. Hes also featured, along with Mike Myers and Jason Priesley, in the TV spoof The True Meaning of Christmas Specials, written by Kids In The Halls Dave Foley.
Hopefully Dale, who has never consumed drugs or alcohol, will continue creating guitar excitement for years to come. I dont think of tomorrow, because I dont know what tomorrow is. If I worry today about tomorrow, Ive screwed up today. I dont worry about yesterday, because yesterdays gone and I cant use it anymore. Three seconds from now, I could drop dead from a stroke. So I just think about this very moment. Each moment that you are breathing, savor that moment.
For the latest news and tour dates, www.dickdale.com