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Dick Dale

Born: May 4, 1937 - Boston
Died: March 16, 2019 - California
Position:

External Product Tester & Advisor

1955-1965

INTRO:

If there is one guy that lived long enough to tell the tale of Leo Fender and the uprising of guitar-driven Rock'n Roll, Dick Dale was the man. The career and stories that Dick had was golden treasure every time he would speak about them. He grew up in the middle of a revolution of music invention both on stage and off stage.

Dick Dale was named the King of Surf. He basically invented it, and Beach Boys commercialized it. His real name was Richard Anthony Monsour and was born May 4, 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts. He would later move to California with his family in 1954 and involve himself with the surfing community. In terms of musical interest, he started playing drums first with Gene Krupa as his main influence. But later he also learned piano and trumpet and develop a dream to become a country musician where Hank Williams would be another influence.


THE FENDER COLLABORATION

Dale's turf was the Balboa area. Great for waves and music. He started playing live music around there at very young age. However, he was always broke and had only poor equipment to use. So he decided to drop by the Fender factory and sought up Leo Fender,- introducing himself as a surfer with no money, and he needed some better equipment and could not afford it. Leo, who had released the Stratocaster the year before, found just one and gave it to him and asked him to try it out. The two would then go on and collaborate on various instruments and amps over the years with both Leo and Freddie Tavarez. Dale has an unorthodox style of playing. He plays left-handed backwards. Meaning Jimi Hendrix style but with Low-E at the bottom and High-E at the top. Leo, a man of staunch focus who rarely cracked a smile fell off his chair laughing when he saw Dale playing it that way and told him; "Son, you are holding it the wrong way"

 If it was not unorthodox enough, he used some string gauge that Stevie Ray Vaughan would drop jaws to. 016-.018-020-039-,049- and .060 strings for sheer power and output.

But that was his style. Leo told him to take the guitar with a small endorsement deal statement to "tell him how it performs" as payment. Eventually he sent Dale off with the guitar and an amp.. "Beat it death son" he said.


Dale was mainly focused on country music and was influenced by Hank Williams. He created a playing style that was unique and unheard of at the time. He would play fast Staccato single notes, and since his father was of Lebanese origin, he found inspiration in middle easter scales.. The staccato derived from Krupa´s tribalistic drumming, and he has said that surfing was a major influence as well. He would also take use of the built in reverb on the amps and create the foundation of the surf music sound with an identifying boom-cha-cha drum rhythm. As he became a staple in the California music scene, he found himself getting a slot at the Rendezvous Ballroom, Balboa, California. There he would pioneer Surf music to thousands of people during the mid-60's with his band "The Del-Tones".

Dick Dale & The Del-Tones at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa California

The Beach Boys was establishing themselves at the same time. But their sound was commercially pop driven compared to Dale's more fierce style.


THE BIRTH OF THE SHOWMAN AMP

Dale played with incredible loud volume and blew amps all the time. On the commercial market, 10-15W amps was the maximum you could get in those days. Nothing could withstand the sound and volume Dale was after. But now with good connection to Leo Fender, he went to him once more and asked for solutions. Leo who was primarily an inventor at heart always took great length to help out artist, which was the reason he made guitars to begin with. So Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares would come down to Rendezvous Ballroom when Dale was playing one night. The two stood in the middle of the crowd, and Leo said "Well i think i know what Dick is trying to tell us" and they headed back to the drawing board.

Leo then developed the first 85 Watt transformer that was capable of pushing 100 Watts of power trough four 5180 tubes. There was no capable speaker around to drive such power, so they went to Jon Lansing of JBL and asked him to make him a custom 15" inch speaker with a 15 pound magnet. Also on Dale's request, asked JBL to put those aluminum dust cover on the diaphragm so he could hear the "click" when he plucked the strings.

The speaker became a commercial model and is called JBL D130F. They packed all this into a cabinet and it got the name Fender Showman amplifier wrapped with cream tolex because thats all Leo had at the moment. he named it after Dick since he was a "Showman" on stage and he would leap off the amps during the performance and so on.. Finally Dick had an amp he could crank up without any fear of the amp catching fire.


For Dale, that was not enough, he silently asked Leo again to stick two 15" horns in a cabinet. So again Leo, Dale and the crew would expand the amp, cranking up the wattage further. Packing a 100W output transformer jointly developed with the Triad Company with peak volume to 180 Watts and housing Two JBL D130F speakers. This was to be called the "Dual Showman"

With the Dual Showman, rock musicians him the forefather of rock and metal music because of the volume he delivered. The amp was also ahead of Marshall who would later deliver stacked amps like the Super Leads and so on.

The Fender Dual Showman Amplifier

HOLLYWOOD MOVIES

Dick Dale also went into the movie business for a period in the beginning of the 60's. When the Surf music movement grew, Hollywood sought to make some money of it and they did several surfer movies where Dick would have a role as a technical music consultant or a acting role as a musician or other roles if there were needed for one. The first movie he ever did was "Let´s Make Love", where he played a Elvis Presley impersonator and got to hang with Marilyn Monroe for 4 weeks whom Dale thought was a gifted intelligent person. Two decades later in 1994 after the Surf movement had long come and gone, Quentin Tarantino decides to open up his critical acclaimed movie Pulp Fiction with "Misrlou" , Dale's probably most known song, a fierce instrumental spearheaded with all signature surf and mariachi horns, thus giving his career a spark again.


DICK DALE IN PRIVATE

Privately, Dale was a everyday surfer in his younger years. He was also a environmental activist and spoke for planet preservation and anti-commercialism which he wrote most of his lyrics about. He was also a animal rights lover preserving rare species like tigers.

Dick Dale in his right element.

Together with Fender he would pioneer the Stratocaster, but he was a multi-instrumentalist and helped out testing all the Fender hammond organs and other models as well as Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.

during his later years as he grew older, his health started to decline. He suffered from Diabetes, Vertebrae damage and kidney problems. He also fought and beat cancer in 1966 . But Dale was a real trooper and took his health issue as an simple obstacle to overcome and beat. He toured and played as much as he could to pay his medical bills until he died in 2019 after complications from heart and kidney treatment. He was 81 years old.

Dick Dale 1937-2019


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