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Surf Beat
by Dick Dale & his Del-Tones
Dick Dale (1937 to 2019) was an American 'surf music' guitarist, with the 'Del-Tones'. Dick Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, on May 4th 1937. Born into a family of mixed Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian descent, his family subsequently moved to nearby Quincy, where he started learning the piano at the age of nine after listening to his aunt playing. He was then given a trumpet in seventh grade, also acquiring a ukulele after hearing Hank Williams play one (his first song on the ukulele was "Tennessee Waltz"). He was much influenced musically by his uncle, who taught him how to play the 'tarabaki' percussion (and could also play the 'oud'). He then bought a guitar from a friend, learning to play it using both lead and rhythm styles so that the guitar filled the place of drums (however, his early 'tarabaki' drumming later influenced his guitar playing, particularly the rapid alternate picking technique). After completing eleventh grade at Quincy High School in 1954, his father moved the family to El Segundo, California, for work reasons. He spent his senior year at, and graduated from, Washington Senior High School, also learning to surf by the age of 17. He always retained a strong interest in Arabic music - it later played a major role in his development of 'surf rock' music while known professionally as 'Dick Dale'. His pioneering of the genre drew firmly on Middle Eastern music scales, and involved much experimentation with reverberation (or 'reverb'). Eventually becoming widely known as "The King of the Surf Guitar" (also the title of his second studio album), he later worked very closely with the guitar manufacturer Fender to produce custom-made amplifiers, including the first-ever 100-watt model. In this way, he helped push the limits of electric amplification technology, assisting in developing equipment which was capable of producing a louder guitar sound without sacrificing reliability. He had first started out playing around Southern California with his backing band the 'Del-Tones' in the late 1950s. 'Dick Dale & his Del-Tones' became a popular attraction in that part of the USA, and he also appeared in a number of 1960s "beach" movies. His early records were released by his father Jim Monsour on the 'Deltone Records' imprint, but he later signed to 'Capital Records' to issue four studio LPs with them (by that time there were frequent line-up changes in the 'Del-Tones', and so he was backed by mostly studio musicians at 'Capitol'). After a bout of rectal cancer, he was forced to retire in 1965 though he did eventually return in the 1970s, even reviving the 'Del-Tone' name for a while. After finally dropping the group name, he released several solo albums in the 1990s and early 2000s. Although his studio output in the new millennium was more sparse, he continued to perform 'live' until his cancer returned in early 2008 (and even started touring again in 2009, keeping this up until shortly before his death). Dick Dale died in Loma Linda, California, on March 16th 2019, aged 81.
Posted: 17th April 2019
Hundreds of very talented musicians pass away each year, some without much recognition at all. On "Rest In Peace ✚", I aim to give them a fitting 'send-off', with a decent Tribute. I hope you will join me in marking their passing.....
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