King of Surf Guitar Dies at 81

Dick Dale pioneered sound in the '50s
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 18, 2019 2:01 AM CDT
King of Surf Guitar Dies at 81
In this May 27, 2007 photo, Dick Dale, known as "The King of the Surf Guitar," performs at BB King Blues Club in New York. Dale has died at age 81.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Dick Dale, whose pounding, blaringly loud power-chord instrumentals on songs like "Miserlou" and "Let's Go Trippin'" earned him the title King of the Surf Guitar, has died at age 81. His former bassist Sam Bolle says Dale passed away Saturday night. No other details were available. Dale liked to say it was he and not the Beach Boys who invented surf music—and some critics have said he was right, the AP reports. An avid surfer, Dale started building a devoted Los Angeles fan base in the late 1950s with repeated appearances at Newport Beach's old Rendezvous Ballroom. He played "Miserlou," ''The Wedge," ''Night Rider," and other compositions at wall-rattling volume on a custom-made Fender Stratocaster guitar.

"Miserlou," which would become his signature song and was later used by Quentin Tarantino as the Pulp Fiction theme song, was adapted from a Middle Eastern folk tune Dale heard as a child and later transformed into a thundering surf-rock instrumental. Born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937, Dale moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1954, where he immediately fell in love with surfing and the electric guitar. As a child, he listened to Lebanese and Polish folk tunes played by his parents. Dale said he developed his musical style when he sought to merge the sounds of the crashing ocean waves he heard while surfing with melodies inspired by the rockabilly music he loved. Dale is survived by his wife, Lana, and a son, James, a drummer who sometimes toured with his father. (More Dick Dale stories.)

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