Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Dick Dale In The News

OC Register had this article last Saturday about DD.

By PAUL HODGINS The Orange County Register
March 21, 2009 - 12:00AM

Bopping up and down on a cherry red sofa aboard his yacht in Newport Harbor, Dick Dale is as proud as a new daddy. The object of his adulation? This month's GQ magazine.

Dale is featured, alongside Tom Waits, Michelle Phillips, John Doe and Exene Cervenka, in a pictorial called “Paradise City: 50 Years of L.A. Rock.” There he is, on Page 136, in glorious black-and-white, with a swooning caption: “Hendrix worshiped him. … Tarantino opened ‘Pulp Fiction' with his anthem ‘Misirlou.' … All hail Dick Dale – the original guitar hero.”

“They took about 400 pictures, man,” Dale says, throwing his arms wide. “They shot the best photos I've ever seen of me.”
Dale, who refers to himself in the third person often enough that he jokes about it, then adds: “Yup, 50 years of L.A. rock. And it all started with Dick Dale's surf guitar.”
Dale's no shrinking violet when he talks about his career. Why should he be?
His stories, wild as they seem, are true.

Cars full of thrill-seeking teens really did stack up along Coast Highway, all heading to Newport's Rendezvous Ballroom to hear Dale and his band, the Del-Tones. “It held 4,000, and it was always packed to the walls,” Dale said.
Leo Fender, Orange County's wizard of electrified music, really did design an amplifier and speaker combination that wouldn't melt down when Dale blasted those power chords out of his Stratocaster with extrathick strings.
And Dale really did meet – heck, sometimes even discover – those legendary names of rock 'n' roll. “I found Jimi (Hendrix) when he was playing bass in a bar in Pasadena with Little Richard. There were
about 30 people in the audience. He wasn't Jimi Hendrix then.”
Dale's got a lot of stories, and he's in a mood to tell them. All an interviewer can do is settle back and enjoy the ride. Steering the conversation would be like persuading a tornado to choose a path.
Maybe Dale's yak has something to do with his present circumstances.
Now 71, he recently had surgery for colon cancer, an enemy he's been battling for years. “I'm feeling great,” he says more than once. And other than a few wincing moments when he's jumping around the yacht's amp- and guitar-filled cabin, he looks surprisingly vital for one of rock's most grizzled veterans.
Men half his age would be hard-pressed to keep up with him.

The Dale legend started in 1954, when his family moved to Orange County from Massachusetts. Like a lot of local kids in the '50s, Dale was drawn to the waves. “I surfed Dana Point, San Clemente and, of course, Huntington Beach. Every morning you could find me at the hot water pipe.”

Dale also was fascinated with music. He once sold jars of Nivea cream door to door to snag a cheap prize offered by the company, a cardboard ukulele.
From the beginning, Dale was after one thing above all: volume.
“I was always trying to find a way to make my guitar sound like Gene Krupa's drums. Drums were my first instrument.”
When the left-handed Dale started playing guitar, “Nobody told me I was holding it wrong.” He never changed or restrung his instrument to make playing right-handed chords in mirror fashion easier. “I just taught myself to play it like that. It was hard at first.”
Dale's love of loudness led to a period of raucous experimentation. It started with his instrument. “The thicker the string, the more powerful the sound. I've always played with really thick strings,” he says. Dale picks up a guitar pick from the coffee table. “See these? I grind them down in performance.
You'll see the flakes flying right off them when I'm going "tikitikitikitikiTIKI!' ” As he shows this, the pick becomes a blur.
Dale's quest for power brought him to guitar and amp maker Leo Fender.
“I blew amps like they were made of tissue paper. Once I blew out the sound system at Royal Albert Hall in London.
“I went to meet Leo with my dad. I said: ‘Hi, I'm Dick Dale. I'm a surfer, I got no money, and I need a guitar. I'm gonna be playing a big place called the Rendez-vous Ballroom. Can you help me out?' ”
“He said, ‘Here, I've just created this guitar,' and he handed me a Stratocaster. He said: ‘We're still working out the bugs. Can you help us out?' ” A beautiful friendship was born. Fender and his colleague, Hawaiian-born guitarist Freddy Tavares, worked with Dale over several years to create the equipment to bring the music in his head to life.
At the Rendezvous, Dale had trouble getting the volume he wanted when the huge room filled with fans. “I kept blowing up amp after amp after amp. Leo said, ‘Why do you have to play so loud?' He made me a 5-foot-high tower of speakers, and I fried those.” Fender and Tavares came to the Rendezvous for one of Dale's big events. “Leo stood in the middle of
4,000 people and listened to my sound for a while. He said to Freddy, ‘Back to the drawing board.' A little while later he called me in the middle of the night and said, ‘I got it!' ” Fender had to invent technology to create an 85-watt amplifier that peaked cleanly at 100 watts. They found another company to build a speaker system that could handle the amp's demands. Finally the king of surf guitar could produce his trademark sound.

And what, exactly, is the Dale sound?
Dale smiles and starts playing air guitar. With a song like his famous rendition of “Misirlou,” it's about more than volume, he says. “It's about accuracy, focus, being true to your vision. You have to have a dream, and then everything becomes locked into that.”

Dale has studied martial arts and Eastern philosophy, and he lives his religion. “I've never had alcohol in my body in my life. I've never had a drug in my body in my life. It's been about four weeks now since they put me back together. That surgery was eight hours long. The surgeons came out looking like they were hit by a truck. And I'm back as strong as ever.
“People call me the king of the surf guitar. You know what the doctors call me? The Cancer Warrior.” Dale smiles and stretches his arms along the back of his big red throne. “I like that.”

Make sure to get your copy of GQ.


Brandonio! said...

I'm, going to have to check that GQ issue out for sure.Thanks for the heads up.Hmm no drugs,no alcohol ?What ever floats your boat Mr.Dale.It's funny how all the health nuts claim their lifestyle helps them fight diseases,and all that crap.It doesn't matter what your lifestyle,if cancer wants to take effect in someones body it's going to no matter what you do or don't do.It's all in the genes.Either way I'm glad pulled through.At least he didn't thank god for helping him through the illness.A good comeback album would really help kick his career back into full throttle gear though.Long live Dick Dale!

DirtyDave07 said...

I saw Dick Dale in a small bar in Melbourne during the mid 80's ,my ears are still whisteling!!..but it was worth it.In those days everybody smoked and if you didnt,too bad about being in a confined space with 100 who did...i remember Dicks show was "non smoking",it took me a long time to find out why....I believe he always travels with a non smoking road crew too(?).