Monday, December 07, 2020

Dick Dale & His Del-Tones - King Of The Surf Guitar (Surf US 1963)

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Dick Dale was becoming one of the biggest rock & roll acts in California's history in 1962 when he was signed to Capitol Records, who reissued his album Surfer's Choice (which had already moved close to 90,000 copies on Dale's own Deltone label) and put him into the studio to cut some fresh material for his new sponsors. 

Overall, King of the Surf Guitar was probably Dale's best album for Capitol, but it also suggested a fundamental misunderstanding of Dale and his music by the label. King of the Surf Guitar begins with the title tune, in which female vocal group the Blossoms (featuring Darlene Love) urge us to "Listen! Listen to the King!" as Dale reels off trademark riffs, as if anyone who bought the record would be likely to do otherwise, and the curious opener pointed to the album's flaw. 

Dick Dale & Stevie Wonder in 1964

Capitol seemingly wanted an album that would have something for everyone, so along with Dale's ripsaw surf guitar vehicles it includes folk tunes ("Greenback Dollar"), rock & roll oldies ("Kansas City"), country standards ("You Are My Sunshine"), lovelorn ballads ("If I Never Get to Heaven"), and plenty of vocal numbers, though Dale goes out of his way to inject his forceful personality into every tune and his singing, while not as impressive as his guitar work, was nothing to complain about. 

Fender Showman Ampi, MIM PHX

Still, this album truly shines on tunes when Dale gets to play guitar at full force, and "Hava Nagila," "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," and "Mexico" are as fiery as anything he would cut for the label. If King of the Surf Guitar isn't a Dick Dale album for purists, at the very least it leaves no doubt that he came by the title accolade honestly.

Richard Anthony Monsour (May 4, 1937 – March 16, 2019), known professionally as Dick Dale, was an American rock guitarist. He was the pioneer of surf music, drawing on Middle Eastern music scales and experimenting with reverberation. Dale was known as "The King of the Surf Guitar", which was also the title of his second studio album.

Dale was one of the most influential guitarists of all time and especially of the early 1960s. Most of the leading bands in surf music, such as The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and The Trashmen, were influenced by Dale's music, and often included recordings of Dale's songs in their albums. His style and music influenced guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen and Brian May.

He has been mentioned as one of the fathers of heavy metal. Many credit him with tremolo picking, a technique that is now widely used in many musical genres (such as extreme metal, folk etc.). His speedy single-note staccato picking technique was unmatched until metal greats like Eddie Van Halen entered the music scene.

Working together with Leo Fender, Dale also pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing thick and previously unheard volumes including the first-ever 100-watt guitar amplifier.[8] Dale also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects.

The use of his recording of "Misirlou" by Quentin Tarantino in the film Pulp Fiction led to his return in the 1990s, marked by four albums and world tours. He also won a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental for the song "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Dick Dale in 2009

Dale began playing in local country western rockabilly bars where he met Texas Tiny in 1955, who gave him the name "Dick Dale" because he thought it was a good name for a country singer.

Dale employed non-Western scales in his playing. He regularly used reverb, which became a trademark of surf guitar. Being left-handed, Dale tried to play a right-handed guitar, but then changed to a left handed model. However, he did so without restringing the guitar, leading him to effectively play the guitar upside-down, often playing by reaching over the fretboard, rather than wrapping his fingers up from underneath.

He partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment, later saying "When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption." His combination of loud amplifiers and heavy gauge strings led him to be called the "Father of Heavy Metal". After blowing up several Fender amplifiers, Leo Fender and Freddie Tavares saw Dale play at the Rendezvous Ballroom, Balboa, California and identified the problem arose from him creating a sound louder than the audience screaming. The pair visited the James B. Lansing loudspeaker company and asked for a custom 15-inch loudspeaker, which became the JBL D130F model, and was known as the Single Showman Amp. Dale's combination of a Fender Stratocaster and Fender Showman Amp allowed him to attain significantly louder volume levels unobtainable by then-conventional equipment.

Dale's performances at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa in mid to late 1961 are credited with the creation of the surf music phenomenon. Dale obtained permission to use the 3,000 person capacity ballroom for surfer dances after overcrowding at a local ice cream parlor where he performed made him seek other venues. The Rendezvous ownership and the city of Newport Beach agreed to Dale's request on the condition that he prohibit alcohol sales and implement a dress code. Dale's events at the ballrooms, called "stomps," quickly became legendary, and the events routinely sold out.

"Let's Go Trippin'" is one of the first surf rock songs. This was followed by more locally released songs, including "Jungle Fever" and "Surf Beat" on his own Deltone label. His first full-length album was Surfers' Choice in 1962. The album was picked up by Capitol Records and distributed nationally, and Dale soon began appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, and in films where he played his signature single "Misirlou". He later stated, "I still remember the first night we played it ("Misirlou"). I changed the tempo, and just started cranking on that mother. And ... it was eerie. The people came rising up off the floor, and they were chanting and stomping. I guess that was the beginning of the surfer's stomp." His second album was named after his performing nickname, "King of the Surf Guitar".

Dale later said "There was a tremendous amount of power I felt while surfing and that feeling of power was simply transferred into my guitar". His playing style reflected the experience he had when surfing, and projecting the power of the ocean to people.

Dale and the Del-Tones performed both sides of his Capitol single, "Secret Surfin' Spot" in the 1963 movie, Beach Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The group performed the songs "My First Love," "Runnin' Wild" and "Muscle Beach" in the 1964 film, Muscle Beach Party.

01. "King of the Surf Guitar" (Alonzo Willis) – 2:06
02. "The Lonesome Road" (Nathaniel Shilkret, Gene Austin) – 3:14
03. "Kansas City" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) – 2:43
04. "Dick Dale Stomp" (Dick Dale) – 2:12
05. "What'd I Say" (Ray Charles) – 3:24
06. "Greenback Dollar" (Hoyt Axton, Ken Ramsey) – 2:52
07. "Hava Nagila" (Dick Dale) – 2:04
08. "You Are My Sunshine" (Jimmie Davis, Charles Mitchell) – 1:58
09. "Mexico" (Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:10
10. "Break Time" (Dick Dale) – 2:45
11. "Riders in the Sky" (Stan Jones) – 2:11
12. "If I Never Get to Heaven" (Jenny Lou Carson, Roy Botkin) – 2:55