This month Martin Cooper dons his wettie and waxes up his sled to check out the style of the King of Surf guitar, the picktastic Dick Dale.
Martin Cooper brushes up on his exotic scales to introduce legendary surf rocker, Dick Dale.
Dick Dale is an American guitarist known as the King of Surf guitar – and the man who pioneered surf style music in the 1960s. His fast staccato, tremolo-picked guitar lines are often cited as being the precursor to heavy metal music. He is a guitar player who pushed the boundaries of what technology could do at the time by starting to overdrive his amps into a distorted tone. Notably, he worked closely with Fender in designing the first ever 100-watt guitar amplifier. His playing is said to have influenced other rock guitar royalty, such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.
Dale was born in Boston, USA, although some biographies list his birthplace as being Beirut. He is of Lebanese descent on his father’s side and Polish-Belarusian on his mother’s side of the family. His early musical ventures included learning how to play the tarabaki drum, which then went on to influence his rapid-fire guitar picking style.
Dale was a surfer and he wanted to write and play music that reflected the sounds he heard in his head while surfing. His song Let’s Go Trippin’ is regarded as the first surf rock song, and after the release of his debut album Surfer’s Choice, he became a regular on the Ed Sullivan Show. Although the ‘British invasion’ in the mid 60s started to take over from surf rock, Dale continued to record and perform and in 1994 the genre enjoyed a huge resurgence when Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction featured Dale’s song Miserlou in the film and its soundtrack. In 2005 The Black Eyed Peas sampled the same track in their hit Pump It. In 2009 Dale was inducted into the Musicians’ Hall Of Fame And Museum in Nashville. Dick Dale has also said that he never used alcohol or drugs, he has studied martial arts for 30 years, and he still puts on an energetic live show well into his 70s.
Our featured track this month features some fairly easy melodic lines on the fifth string, although the part is very exposed above the bass and drums. It also carries a lot of the rhythm and melody, so it will be more tricky to execute confidently than you may at first imagine.
We’re in the guitar-friendly key of A minor (A-B-C-D-E-F-G), but you’ll also encounter a G# note from the A Harmonic Minor scale (A-B-C-D-E-F-G#) and therefore an implied E major chord (E-G#-B) that gives the desired spaghetti western-type sound. NEXT MONTH Martin examines the style of ELO’s main man and Glastonbury star Jeff Lynne
DICK DALE’s pLAYING INfLuENCED OThER ROCK GuITAR ROYALTY, suCh As JImI hENDRIx AND EDDIE VAN hALEN
Dick Dale with his, now legendary, gold Fender Strat
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