Before there were guitar heroes like Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, a Boston ukulele player transplanted to California emerged with a sound that ended up influencing generations of guitar players.
Dick Dale, an actual surfer, was the inventor of surf rock, the twangy electric guitar style that found its way into everyone from punk bands like the Dead Kennedys and The Cramps to the bluesy rock of Stevie Ray Vaughn to everything Eddie Vedder has ever done
Dale was later hired by Fender to test out gear, something he did with gusto, blowing up at least 50 amps in the process. It was through his testing that the Fender Strat became the go-to instrument for making surf music.
If you don’t know his name, you’ve certainly heard some of his work in Quentin Tarantino movies. This scene from Pulp Fiction featured the hit “Miserlou.”
There’s a good reason some of his music had a Middle Eastern sort of bent to it. His Lebanese father gave young Dick his first music lessons, much of which consisted of Middle Eastern musical scales.
Dale’s first hit was “Let’s Go Trippin'” from 1961, which was probably the first surf song.
Here’s the full version of “Miserlou.”
Dick died Sunday (March 17) at the age of 81. He’d been ill with a variety of health problems for some time.