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Dick Dale, the surf-rock pioneer who took the reverberation to a new level, died on Saturday night. He was 81 years old. The guitarist's health has declined over the past 20 years due to a number of illnesses, including diabetes, kidney disease and rectal cancer. The news was confirmed to NPR by Dusty Watson, a drummer who worked with Dale between 1995 and 2006 and toured with him. He said he talked to Dale's wife Lana Dale. There were no reasons.
Dale, born in 1937 Richard Anthony Monsour, changed the sound of rock and roll in the early 1960s as he increased the reverberation on his guitar and used the Arabic scales of his father's home country of Lebanon. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he found his aesthetic when his family moved to Orange County, California in 1954, where he started surfing.
His energetic interpretation of an ancient song from Asia Minor, "Misirlou" (Egyptian) became the best-known song of surf rock: he had learned the tune from his Lebanese uncles who had played it on the oud .
"I started playing," Dale, who started out as a drummer, told NPR in an interview in 2010, "and I said," Oh no, that's too slow. "And I thought of Gene Krupaa's drumming, his staccato drumming … When we went to California, I got my first guitar, but I used that rocket attack, the Gene Krupa rhythm, on the guitar."
Lied became his signature: Dale released his own single "Misirlou" on Deltone Records in 1962, which in part led to a deal with Capitol Records to sell his first album, Surfer's Choice of 1962. Dale's first album for Capitol was King of the Surf Guitar in 1963; He said the fans had the honorable nickname on an early show.
Dale's collaboration with guitar inventor Leo Fender also wrote sound history. "I met a man named Leo Fender," he told NPR, "Einstein of the guitar and amp, saying," I've just built a guitar here, it's a Stratocaster. They just beat it to death and tell it I think when I started playing with this thing, I wanted it to be as loud as I could, like Gene Krupa drumming. And when I was surfing, when the waves picked me up and took me through the tubes, I would get that grunt sound.
Fender and Dale also collaborated on boosters, Dale told Terry Gross of Fresh Air . " I wanted a fat, dense, deep sound, said Dale.
Fender kept trying options, but Dale was still not satisfied. "We've done all these adjustments over and over again with output transformers and speakers," Dale said, "and so I blew up over 48 speakers and amplifiers, they would catch fire as the speakers freeze, the speakers would be torn from the coils. So he went back to the drawing board and invented the Dick Dale Showman amp and the dual showman amp with the 15-inch lansing speaker … that was the end result … Along with the creations we had on the Stratocaster Guitar, this is a really fat body, because the thicker the wood, the purer the sound. "
Three decades after its first release, its best-known piece, Dale and "Misirlou" experienced a wave of resurgence after the song was mentioned in the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction . The film's soundtrack has sold over 3 million copies and has helped to introduce Surfrock – and Dale himself – to a new generation of music fans. New compilations were released and he was even booked on the 1996 Warped Tour.
In the following decades he released two more albums and played in front of live audience. "I make my guitar scream in pain, pleasure or sensuality," he told NPR. "It makes people move their feet and shake their bodies, which is exactly what makes music."
Andrew Flanagan of NPR provided additional coverage.