Dick Dale, one of rock music’s most iconic guitar players, hailed as the pioneer of the “surf rock” sound, has passed away tragically at the age of 81-years-old. Previously, Dick was in treatment for cancer, from which he had fought twice before in the past and succeeded.
On Saturday night, Dale passed away, and Sam Bolles, his bass guitarist, confirmed the sad news to The Associated Press on Sunday. Thus far, it isn’t clear precisely how he died, but rumor has it that it was cancer-related.
Dick came to prominence for playing his guitar both left-handed and upside down, with the lowest sounding strings on the bottom and the highest sounding strings on the top. He frequently used Middle Eastern and Mexican style scales in his instrumental rock songs.
Dale and his band, the Del-Tones, cranked the reverb on their amplifiers and turned up the speed to create a lo-fi rock sound that went on to be characterized as “surf rock.”
Dale is known also for being good friends with Leo Fender, the inventor of rock music’s arguably most iconic guitar, the Fender Stratocaster. Leo and Dick even collaborated once and created their first 100-watt amplifier to handle the fact that Dick frequently destroyed 30-watt boxes.
In the company’s statement, they said Dale and Leo Fender worked tirelessly to create an amplifier/cabinet combo that could handle playing at high volumes. Dale’s sound even went on to influence the music of The Beach Boys, who added vocals to the surf guitar sounds.
They, for a long time, were his opening act. Moreover, Dick inspired artists like Scott Ian, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, as well as Jimi Hendrix. Others have dubbed – albeit controversially- Mr. Dale as the godfather of heavy metal and he has unfortunately been excluded from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame.
While he secured a name for himself among entertainers, musicians, and artists, over his long-standing career, Dick’s music became a part of common parlance when his song, “Misirlou,” was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s award-winning classic, Pulp Fiction, starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson.