Dick Dale, King of '60s Surf Guitar, Dead at 81

Dick Dale, the legendary guitarist known as the "King of the Surf Guitar," died Sunday at age 81. Dale was a major influence on a generation of musicians thanks to his compositions "Miserlou" and "Let's Go Trippin.'"

California Rocker first reported Dale's death. Sources told the site that the musician, who was battling several health issues in recent years, died around 4 a.m. Sunday. His touring bassist, Sam Bolle, also confirmed his death to The Guardian.

According to Rolling Stone, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer and recently said he had to keep touring in order to afford medical expenses.

"I can't stop touring because I will die," Dale told the Pittsburgh City Paper in 2015. "Physically and literally, I will die."

"I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that's on top of the insurance that I pay for," Dale said at the time. "The hospital says change your patch once a week. No! If you don't change that patch two times a day, the fecal matter eats through your flesh and causes the nerves to rot and they turn black, and the pain is so excruciating that you can't let anything touch it. That has happened to me because I was following the orders of the hospital."

Dale was born Richard Monsour in Boston in 1937 and learned how to play ukulele and guitar as a child. His family moved to Southern California when he was a senior in high school in 1954, and he soon developed an interest in surfing.

Joined by the Del-Tones, Dale recorded two now-iconic guitar instrumentals, beginning with "Let's Go Trippin'" in 1961. The following year, they recorded "Miserlou," a track based on an Eastern Mediterranean song. When The Beach Boys added vocals to the mix of surf rock, they still acknowledged Dale's importance to the genre by recording both tracks for their early albums.

Dale's work was also influential to Jimi Hendrix, Ry Cooder, Eddie Van Halen and many others. Quentin Tarantino used "Miserlou" for the opening credits to Pulp Fiction.

"I'm sorry to hear about Dick Dale passing," the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson tweeted. "Dick's guitar playing was a big influence on all of us, and we covered 'Misirlou' on our Surfin' USA album in '63. Love & Mercy to Dick's family."

Dale never stopped performing, and was listed on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.


"I'm not some great guitarist like the Satrianis and the Van Halens," Dale said in a Washington Post interview in 1993. "I never went to school and learned music theory. When I play, I go, 'This sounds like a tiger; this sounds like a volcano; this sounds like the lip of the water coming over my head when I'm surfing.' My bass player says, 'When I stand behind you, I don't just see your arms moving, I see your shoulders shuddering, your back straining.' That's because I put all my physical force into my playing. I take people for a ride on a non-chemical wave of sound."

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