Dick Dale "2011 Surf Culture"

King of the Surf Guitar

PHOTO: Courtesy Dick Dale & Michael Ochs Archive

Known worldwide as “The King of Surf Guitar”, Dick Dale’s sound reigns supreme among genre purists. While groups like the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean are often pegged as surf music, Dale’s instrumentals hold a strict line compared to his vocal-heavy peers.

Born Richard Monsour in Boston, Massachusetts, Dale taught himself how to play Hank Williams songs on a ukulele and guitar as a young child. When his family moved to El Segundo, California in the mid-‘50s, Dale caught his first wave.

Dale later said he was trying through his music to “match the feeling I had while surfing; the vibration and puslification, and the tremendous power.” And just like the sport of surfing, his sound was truly unique. He’d hammer a single string while sliding his fret hand up and down the neck of his Fender Stratocaster. And although he was left-handed, Dale played a right-handed guitar upside down, leaving the heavier-gauge strings on the bottom – a style later mimicked by Jimi Hendrix.

He played his first concert at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach and local surfers went crazy over his one-of-a-kind music. Dale and his band the Del-Tones released their first single “Let’s Go Trippin’” in 1961, which is considered the first true surf record.

Dale’s first album, Surfer’s Choice, sold over 80,000 copies and featured him surfing on the cover. His 1962 hit “Misirlou” became the quintessential surf song and was used as the opening track to the hit movie Pulp Fiction. In 1987, Dale and guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan earned a Best Instrumental Grammy nomination for their recording of the Chantays’ hit “Pipeline”. In 1996, Dale was inducted to the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame and in 2000 the U.S. House of Representatives elected Dale into the Library of Congress Hall of Records for outstanding achievements in music.

Dick passed away on March 16, 2019 at the age of 81.

PHOTO:  Rendezvous Ballroom, courtesy Dick Dale & Michael Ochs Archive

PHOTO: Once there was a Dick Dale's "Surfs Up" in Newport Beach. Photo courtesy of Russ Rinner.
PHOTO: PT on Induction Day presenting Dick Dale. Photo courtesy Lew Harrison
PHOTO: Dick Dale story telling on Induction Day. Photo courtesy Lew Harrison


PHOTO: Courtesy Dick Dale & Michael Ochs Archive
PHOTO: Dick Dale High Desert
PHOTO: Dick Dale an his Del-Tones, Surfers' Choice Album.  This debut album of Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, pioneers in the surf genre. It was released in 1962.
PHOTO: Deltone Records 45, Let's Go Trippin'
PHOTO: The Dick Dale induction stone
PHOTO: Dick Dale and wife Lana.