Birthday: May 4, 1937
Died At Age: 81
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Richard Anthony Monsour
Born Country: United States
Born in: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Famous as: Guitarist
Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Lana Dale (m. 2011)
father: James Monsour
mother: Fern Monsour
children: Jimmy Dale
Died on: March 16, 2019
Cause of Death: Heart Failure
Diseases & Disabilities: Colorectal Cancer
education: Washington Preparatory High School, Quincy High School
Who was Dick Dale?
Dick Dale was the stage name of American rock guitarist and surf music pioneer Richard Anthony Monsour who introduced Middle Eastern music scales to the United States and experimented with reverberation that became the staple of surf music. His rapid alternate picking technique was inspired by tarabaki, an instrument he had learned to play early on. He gained recognition with the instrumental “Let's Go Trippin” and earned immense popularity for his version of 'Misirlou'. He became known as 'The King of the Surf Guitar' and the 'Father of Heavy Metal', and was inducted into the 'Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum' in Nashville, Tennessee in 2009. After breaking about 50 amplifiers with his brand of loud music, he collaborated with innovative instrument manufacturer Leo Fender to produce custom-made amplifiers that pushed the limits of contemporary technology.
Childhood & Early Life
Dick Dale was born on May 4, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts, to James Monsour and Sophia Danksewicz. He was very young when his family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts, where he attended Quincy High School until the eleventh grade.
In 1954, the family settled in El Segundo, California, after his machinist father began working for Hughes Aircraft Company in the Southern California aerospace industry. He subsequently completed his graduation from Washington Senior High School, and learned to surf, which in future had a huge effect on his music.
He was greatly influenced by his uncle, who taught him to play tarabaki, and learned to play the piano from his aunt when he was nine. He received a trumpet in the seventh grade, but wanting to be a cowboy singer like Hank Williams, he bought a plastic ukulele for $6 and taught himself to play 'Tennessee Waltz'.
He bought a guitar on installment from a friend for $8 and learned to play it by using both lead and rhythm styles to create "the pulsation" effect emulating his idol Gene Krupa’s drums. A fan of surfing, he introduced reverberating "wet" music replicating the sound of waves, which became a distinguishing feature of surf rock.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Following graduation, Dick Dale began participating in talent shows and playing in local country western rockabilly bars under his real name. In 1955, he met DJ Texas Tiny who suggested to him his stage name, feeling it was suitable for a country singer.
In 1958, encouraged by his father, he recorded a demo track titled 'Ooh-Whee Marie' for the local label Del-Fi, but the single was later released and distributed by his father's Deltone imprint.
In the following years, he continued to produce tracks like 'Stop Teasing', 'We'll Never Hear The End Of It' and 'St. Louis Blues', and his performances regularly attracted thousands of surfers.
Due to overcrowding at a local ice cream parlor where he performed, he obtained permission to perform at the Rendezvous Ballroom starting in July 1, 1961. He had developed a friendship with Leo Fender who, along with his colleague and guitarist Freddy Tavares, attended his performance at the ballroom after he blew several amplifiers.
Fender created a custom-made powerful 85-watt amplifier with parts from JBL that could withstand Dale's volume and peak at 100 watts. Dale, who was now able to produce his trademark sound with loud amplifiers and heavy gauge strings, became known as the 'Father of Heavy Metal'.
The instrumental 'Let's Go Trippin'', which started the surf music phenomenon, was first performed at the Rendezvous Ballroom and was released through Deltone in September 1961. It was followed by tracks like 'Jungle Fever', 'Misirlou', and 'Peppermint Man', some of which were included in his 1962 debut album 'Surfers' Choice', distributed nationally by Capitol Records.
'Misirlou', his rock version of the Eastern Mediterranean folk song, had emerged out of a bet that he cannot play it on only one string of his guitar. It quickly became his signature tune which he subsequently performed on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and in films.
He quickly gained immense popularity and was nicknamed 'King of the Surf Guitar', which he used as the title of his second album, containing both original and cover songs, in June 1963. He began experimenting with the 'Hot Rod' style of surf music with his third album 'Checkered Flag' which released later that year.
In 1963, he performed the single 'Secret Surfin' Spot' in the movie 'Beach Party', followed by performances of 'My First Love', 'Runnin' Wild' and 'Muscle Beach' in the 1964 film 'Muscle Beach Party'. He released two albums in 1964; 'Mr. Eliminator' was a follow-up to the previous album containing hot-rod or racing themes and 'Summer Surf' aimed for glossier and more elaborate sound.
Hiatus & Comeback
With the British Invasion of the mid-60s, Dick Dale's popularity suffered, even though he continued to perform live in the following years. However, 'Summer Surf' was his last album with the Del-Tones and Capitol Records as he took a hiatus from music after developing colorectal cancer in 1966.
He was able to conquer the disease, but shifted his interest from music to other activities: taking care of endangered animals, studying martial arts, learning to fly planes and designing his parents' dream house. He became an environmental activist after suffering a puncture wound while surfing off Newport Beach in 1979 that nearly cost him one leg.
In 1986, he made a comeback with a benefit single for the UC-Irvine Medical Center's burn unit, which had treated him. The next year, he appeared in the movie 'Back to the Beach' and performed a duet with Stevie Ray Vaughan on The Chantays' 'Pipeline' that was nominated for a Grammy.
He released his comeback album, 'Tribal Thunder', in 1993, followed by 'Unknown Territory' in 1994, but it was his song 'Misirlou', used in Quentin Tarantino's film 'Pulp Fiction' (1994) that earned him new audience. He released two more albums, 'Calling Up Spirits' (1996) and 'Spacial Disorientation' (2001), and toured until his death to pay his medical bills.
Personal Life & Legacy
In the late 1960s, stressed about his career and health, Dick Dale moved to Hawaii, where he played for $20-a-night at a small bar, and returned with wife, Tahitian dancer Jeannie, in the early 70s. Performing together, they made successful investments in nightclubs and real estate, but he lost much of his wealth following their public and bitter divorce in 1984.
In 1986, he met his future wife, veterinary assistant Jill, who convinced him to strip down his band to a raw, basic trio. She also provided backup vocals and drums for his later albums and shared a son named James (Jimmy) with him.
He went through surgery and radiation treatment following a recurrence of colorectal cancer in 2008 and underwent treatment for heart and kidney failure shortly before his death on March 16, 2019. Following his death, his third wife and manager Lana, whom he had married in Hawaii in 2011, ran a 'Go Fund Me' campaign to pay for his medical bills and funeral expenses.
Dick Dale, who was left-handed, was not told by anyone that he was holding his guitar wrong when he started playing the instrument. He never corrected it or restrung his guitar even when playing right-handed chords in mirror fashion.