Dick Dale, popularly known as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” created the style with his ferocious, previously unheard-of playing, and he was much imitated but never reproduced. The truth that surf musician Dick Dale never kept anything back helped define his music, career, and life. Here are some interesting facts about Dick Dale:
Dale wanted to become a cowboy singer at first
Dale began piano playing at the age of nine, but he also picked up a ukulele and used a tutorial to teach himself how to play country tunes on it. The beat of his first musical hero, Krupa, the surging surge of the ocean’s waves, and the Arabic mandolin-like instrument, the oud, were soon blended together to create the sound that would become his trademark. He next advanced to the guitar.
Dale made a mistake
Apparently, the left-handed Dale developed his distinctive staccato picking style by performing a right-handed guitar backward. But this adjustment wasn’t in the style of Jimi Hendrix. Dale maintained his guitars strung the same manner they were, with the thickest strings on the bottom, unlike fellow lefty Hendrix who restrung his when he turned them over. Due to the bridge pickup’s orientation being reversed, Dale was able to produce warmer treble tones and more high-end pinch on the bottom strings.
Dale’s “beast” was not for the weak-hearted
Dale’s battle-worn gold Stratocaster, known as “the Beast,” was equipped to withstand loud playing thanks to its massive.016-,.018-, and.020-gauge unwound strings and.039-,.049-, and.060-gauge wrapped strings, which create a ton of tension. Due in part to the powerful picks he employed, Dale almost burned through the strings while performing instead of breaking them. Only the master volume and a lever that disengaged the three-way switch allowed the neck and center pickups to be activated on the Beast; there were no tone controls.
Dale and Leo Fender worked together on a high-power 100-watt amplifier
Dale and Leo Fender discovered that the 10W amps just couldn’t handle the demand for additional loudness after Dale destroyed many of them. Fender developed the first 85W transformer, which had a peak output of 100W, to address this issue. It was like upgrading from a tiny VW Bug to a Testarossa, as Dale famously stated. The amp would subsequently be known as the Showman, and when combined with the Beast and a cabinet that housed a 15-inch speaker, Dale could really turn the volume up to 10.
Dale pioneered reverb
Along with his improvements to amps, Dale was a pioneer in the usage of reverb. At first, he added vibrato to it to improve his voice when he was playing live. But when he finally connected his Stratocaster to the reverb tank, he discovered that it provided a “wetter” tone with more sustain. Reverb quickly started to be associated with surf music after that.