Dick Dale: "King of the Surf Guitar" at The Canyon
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The last date listed for Guitarist Dick Dale was Thursday May 23, 2013 / 7:00pm (Doors Open at 6:00pm).
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May 23, 2013: Idle Hands and Andrea Balestra Trio open the show.
Dick Dale wasn't nicknamed "King of the Surf Guitar" for nothing: he pretty much invented the style single-handedly, and no matter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remained the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre ever produced. Dale's pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familial heritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such "exotic" scales in guitar-shredder academies by two decades. The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique was unrivalled until it entered the repertoires of metal virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen, and his wild showmanship made an enormous impression on the young Jimi Hendrix. But those aren't the only reasons Dale was once called the father of heavy metal. Working closely with the Fender company, Dale continually pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing the thick, clearly defined tones he heard in his head, at the previously undreamed-of volumes he demanded. He also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects, creating a signature sonic texture for surf instrumentals. And, if all that weren't enough, Dale managed to redefine his instrument while essentially playing it upside-down and backwards -- he switched sides in order to play left-handed, but without re-stringing it (as Hendrix later did).
During the late '50s, Dale also became an avid surfer, and soon set about finding ways to mimic the surging sounds and feelings of the sport and the ocean on his guitar. He quickly developed a highly distinctive instrumental sound, and found an enthusiastic, ready-made audience in his surfer friends. Dale began playing regular gigs at the Rendezvous Ballroom, a once-defunct concert venue near Newport Beach, with his backing band the Del-Tones; as word spread and gigs at other local halls followed, Dale became a wildly popular attraction, drawing 1,000s of fans to every performance. In September 1961, Del-Tone released Dale's single "Let's Go Trippin'," which is generally acknowledged to be the very first recorded surf instrumental.
"Let's Go Trippin'" was a huge local hit, and even charted nationally. Dale released a few more local singles, including "Jungle Fever," "Misirlou," and "Surf Beat," and in 1962 issued his (and surf music's) first album, the groundbreaking Surfer's Choice, on Del-Tone. Surfer's Choice sold like hotcakes around Southern California, which earned Dale a contract with Capitol Records and national distribution for Surfer's Choice. Dale was featured in Life magazine in 1963, which led to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and the Frankie/Annette film Beach Party; he also released the follow-up LP King of the Surf Guitar, and went on to issue three more albums on Capitol through 1965. During that time, he developed a close working relationship with Leo Fender, who kept engineering bigger and better sound systems in response to Dale's appetite for louder, more maniacally energetic live performances.
Surf music became a national fad, with groups like the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean offering a vocal variant to complement the wave of instrumental groups, all of which were indebted in some way to Dale.
The album Tribal Thunder was released in 1993, but Dale's comeback didn't get into full swing until, in 1994, "Misirlou" was chosen as the opening theme to Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Pulp Fiction. "Misirlou" became synonymous with Pulp Fiction's ultra-hip sense of style, and was soon licensed in countless commercials (as were several other Dale tracks). As a result, Tribal Thunder and its 1994 follow-up Unknown Territory attracted lots of attention, earning positive reviews and surprisingly strong sales. In 1996, he supported the Beggars Banquet album Calling Up Spirits by joining the normally punk- and ska-oriented Warped Tour. Adding his wife and young drum-playing son to his band, Dale refocused on touring over the next few years. He finally returned with a new CD in 2001, Spacial Disorientation, issued on the small Sin-Drome label.