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Dick Dale Biography

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Dick Dale (born Richard Anthony Mansour on May 4, 1937, in Quincy, Massachusetts) is a pioneer of surf rock and one of the most influential guitarists of the early 1960s. His technique influenced future guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. He experimented with reverb and made use of custom made Fender amplifiers. He is not to be confused with the Dick Dale who was a long-time regular singer and saxophonist on The Lawrence Welk Show.

He was born to a Lebanese father and a Polish mother, and soon learned to play the drums, the ukulele, the trumpet and finally the guitar. Among his early musical influences was his uncle, an oud player performing belly dance music. Much of his early music shows a middle eastern influence; Dale is often credited as one of the first electric guitarist to employ exotic scales in his playing. Although Dick Dale himself could not surf, he became so fascinated with it that he began seeking ways of channeling the energy and power of the sport through his guitar playing. While he is primarily known for introducing the use of guitar reverb, which has since become a staple of the surf sound, it was Dale's fast staccato picking that was his trademark. Since Dale was left-handed he was initially forced to play a right-handed model, much like Jimi Hendrix would do years later. However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down (while Hendrix would restring his guitar). Even after he acquired a proper left-handed guitar, Dale continued to use his reverse stringing.

With his backing band, The Del-Tones, Dale's live performances became huge local draws. 1961's "Let's Go Trippin'" is often regarded as the first surf rock song (see 1961 in music). This was followed by more locally-released songs, including "Jungle Fever" and "Surf Beat" on his own Deltone label. His first full-length album was Surfers' Choice (1962 in music). The album was picked up by Capitol Records and distributed nationally, and Dale soon began appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and in films. His second album was named after his performing nickname, King of the Surf Guitar.

Though surf rock became nationally popular in the U.S. briefly, the British Invasion began to overtake the American charts in 1964. Though he continued performing live, Dale was soon set back by rectal cancer. He recovered, though, and retired from music for a time. In 1979, he almost lost a leg after being injured while swimming; a pollution-related infection made the mild injury much worse. As a result, Dale became an environmental activist and soon began performing again throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He recorded a new album in 1986 (see 1986 in music) and was nominated for a Grammy, and the use of "Misirlou" in the Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, earned him a devoted audience. He has released several albums since and continues to actively perform.

In 1993 he recorded a guitar solo with a Southern California indie band called "The Pagodas" which was released as a vinyl single.

In the late 1990s, he recorded a surf-rock version of Camille Saint-Saëns's "Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals for the musical score of the indoor roller coaster, Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Of recent interest, the Black Eyed Peas song "Pump It" (from the 2005 album Monkey Business) heavily samples Dale's "Misirlou". "Misirlou" will also be featured in the PlayStation 2 video game, Guitar Hero II.

Dick Dale made four recordings for John Peel's Peel Sessions
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