Surf rock pioneer Dick Dale has died at the age of 81. Affectionately known as “The King of the Surf Guitar”, he is credited with originating surf-style music.
Dale was born ‘Richard Anthony Monsour’ in Boston, MA in 1937. The son of a Lebanese immigrant, he grew up in Massachusetts but relocated to Southern California with his family during his high school years. Dale drew on Middle-Eastern musical influences and experimented with reverberation, which became a trademark of the surf guitar style. He was also left handed, but never re-strung his guitar, giving his sound a unique quality.
It was in Southern California in the early 1960s that Dale created the surf music phenomenon. His “surfer stomps” at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa quickly became legendary and regularly sold out. In 1962, he released his first album Surfer’s Choice on Capitol Records and in 1963, he made his debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Throughout his career, Dale worked with Leo Fender to test new equipment and was instrumental in the development of the Fender Stratocaster guitar. Fender later said, “When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption.”
Due to a host of medical problems including two battles with rectal cancer, Dale continued performing regularly until 2016 in order to pay his medical bills. He died of heart failure on March 16th, 2019 at the age of 81.