Richard Anthony Monsour, an American rock guitarist and the father of surf music, performed under the stage name Dick Dale. Monsour pioneered the use of reverb in surf music and introduced Middle Eastern musical scales to the US. The Tarabaki, a musical instrument he had learned to play at a young age, served as the inspiration for his quick alternate-picking style. He earned the titles “The King of the Surf Guitar” and “Father of Heavy Metal,” and in 2009, Nashville, Tennessee’s “Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum” inducted him.
Dick Dale was born to James Monsour and Sophia Danksewicz on May 4, 1937, in Boston, Massachusetts. When his family relocated to Quincy, Massachusetts, he was still a small child. He studied at Quincy High School there through the eleventh grade. After receiving a trumpet in the seventh grade, he decided to learn how to play “Tennessee Waltz” on a plastic ukulele because he wanted to be a cowboy singer like Hank Williams. He borrowed a friend’s guitar for $8 and learned to play it by imitating the drums of his idol, Gene Krupa, by employing both lead and rhythmic playing techniques. As a surfer himself, he popularized “wet” music or music that echoed the sound of waves and became known as surf rock.
Start of the music career
He made friends with Leo Fender, who came to see him perform at the ballroom together with his teammate and guitarist Freddy Tavares after he blew numerous amps. With components from JBL, Fender was able to build a strong 85-watt amplifier with a peak output of 100 watts that could handle Dale’s volume. With loud amplifiers and thick gauge strings, Dale was now able to create his signature sound, earning him the title of “Father of Heavy Metal.”
“Let’s Go Trippin”, an instrumental that helped launch the surf music craze, was executed at the Rendezvous Ballroom and released by Delton. It was followed by songs like “Jungle Fever,” “Misirlou,” and “Peppermint Man,” some of which were on his 1962 debut album “Surfers’ Choice,” which Capitol Records distributed across the country.
Star of popularity
He immediately rose to stardom and earned the moniker “King of the Surf Guitar,” which Dale Dick used as the headline of his second album, which was released in June 1963 and featured both original songs and covers. Later that year, with the publication of his third album, “Checkered Flag,” he started experimenting with the “Hot Rod” style of surf music.
In the 1963 film “Beach Party,” he performed the song “Secret Surfin’ Spot,” and in the 1964 movie “Muscle Beach Party,” he sang “My First Love,” “Runnin’ Wild,” and “Muscle Beach.” In 1964, he issued two albums: “Summer Surf” sought a glossier and more ornate sound, while “Mr. Eliminator” continued the hot-rod or dashing themes from the previous album.
The tragic end
Dale went to Hawaii in the late 1960s as a result of his work and health concerns. Sadly, Dusty Watson, a drummer who performed live gigs with Dale, has reported that Dale passed away on Saturday night, March 16, 2019, at the age of 81.