Guitarist Dick Dale, surf rock pioneer, is dead at 81

Dick Dale pioneered the California "surf rock" genre of the early 1960s. He died at 81.

Posted: Mar 19, 2019 1:50 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2019 1:50 AM

Guitarist Dick Dale, whose fast, thunderous sound pioneered the California "surf rock" genre of the early 1960s and gained a new generation of fans decades later through its appearance in "Pulp Fiction," has died. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by two former bandmates, bassist Sam Bolle and drummer Dusty Watson, who told CNN Dale died Saturday night. Watson said Dale had been hospitalized recently for "issues related to his heart."

Dale had a "wet," reverb-heavy guitar sound that evoked crashing waves and sought to echo the sounds he played in his mind while surfing, according to the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame. His singular, staccato picking drew upon Middle Eastern music (his father was Lebanese) and influenced the Beach Boys, the Ventures and other surf-rock artists of the era.

His best-known song, 1962's "Miserlou" (sometimes spelled "Misirlou"), was an adaptation of an early-19th century Middle Eastern instrumental folk tune. In Dale's hands it became a furious rave-up that packed dance floors -- and has had a long life in pop culture.

Quentin Tarantino used it over the opening credits of "Pulp Fiction," giving the song a new veneer of retro cool, and the Black Eyed Peas sampled it prominently in "Pump It," their 2006 hit. That same year the song also appeared in a "Guitar Hero" video game.

Dale's early fame and impact brought him the nickname, "King of the Surf Guitar."

"I'm sorry to hear about Dick Dale passing. Dick's guitar playing was a big influence on all of us, and we covered 'Misirlou' on our Surfin' USA album in '63," Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson said on Twitter.

Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston but moved to Southern California as a teenager and quickly discovered surfing.

He and his band the Del-Tones began playing weekend gigs in the late 1950s at the Rendezvous Ballroom in the seaside Balboa neighborhood of Newport Beach. He played a Fender Stratocaster guitar and used a customized Fender amp to develop his signature thick sound and ear-shredding volume.

Dale's "Let's Go Trippin,'" first played in 1961, is viewed by many as the first-ever surf rock song. His debut album, "Surfers' Choice," came out in 1962 and earned him appearances on Ed Sullivan's show and in "Beach Party," the 1963 Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello movie.

Dale's later career was interrupted repeatedly by health problems. He had recurring battles with rectal cancer and toured into his 80s to help pay his medical bills.

"I want to thank all my music lovers for supporting me these last 3 months with your wonderful heartfelt letters praying for my speedy recovery as I battle this demon that attacks so many other friends and their loved ones," he wrote on his website in 2008. "For now, no touring for a while."

But Dale returned to the road and was still performing as recently as December.

Watson, his former drummer, called Dale "the creator of an entire genre of Southern California indigenous music -- not by him, but by his fans who were surfers -- a new craze that had taken over the beaches up and down the coast."

Watson said Dale was a gracious performer who would stay for hours after each show talking to fans and signing autographs. Onstage, he said, Dale was "a true force of nature ... delivering a punch that would ricochet off the back wall and punch us all in the chest."

Bolle, the bassist, said Dale's wife Lana was with him when he died.

"He taught me to live your life the way you want to live it. He definitely did that with vigor and ferociousness of spirit," Bolle said. "I'm so happy and stoked that he was able to entertain and bring joy to people's lives as long as he did."

West Lafayette
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 53°
Kokomo
Overcast
52° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Rensselaer
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Fowler
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 43°
Williamsport
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 53°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 53°
Frankfort
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Delphi
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 46°
Monticello
Overcast
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 46°
Logansport
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 48°
Scattered Showers & Storms Tonight
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 149166

Reported Deaths: 3960
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24564781
Lake13079350
St. Joseph8788157
Elkhart8371132
Allen7815221
Hamilton5923113
Vanderburgh553050
Tippecanoe350914
Monroe319438
Hendricks3140130
Johnson2972127
Porter293248
Clark282157
Delaware279674
Vigo248837
Madison226991
Cass221020
LaPorte213057
Warrick186563
Kosciusko173121
Floyd172766
Howard157466
Bartholomew138657
Dubois133724
Marshall130626
Henry121828
Boone118648
Grant118039
Wayne117123
Hancock114144
Noble111333
Jackson107412
Morgan91540
Dearborn90328
Daviess83732
Gibson82611
Clinton81316
Shelby78329
Lawrence77832
LaGrange76615
Harrison73324
Knox69610
Putnam69515
DeKalb68611
Posey6745
Steuben5888
Miami5765
Fayette57515
Montgomery56422
White56215
Jasper5464
Greene51237
Scott50613
Decatur49439
Adams4645
Whitley4316
Clay4276
Sullivan42412
Ripley4178
Wells4125
Orange38624
Wabash3859
Starke3847
Huntington3695
Spencer3686
Franklin36325
Jennings35913
Washington3512
Randolph3378
Fulton3292
Jefferson3285
Pike31612
Carroll30813
Perry28914
Jay2816
Fountain2743
Tipton26623
Parke2182
Newton21111
Vermillion2111
Rush2034
Owen1991
Martin1950
Blackford1903
Crawford1481
Pulaski1431
Brown1283
Ohio1187
Benton1070
Union1020
Switzerland840
Warren731
Unassigned0233

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events