Dick Dale - guitar, vocals; Ron Eglit - bass; Dean Johnson - drums
As the King of the Surf Guitar approaches his 75th birthday, you can still find Dick Dale riding the waves of the music biz, shredding his way through the surf guitar music he invented 50 years ago. This show from 1995 at the Laguna Seca Days festival showcases the then 50-something Dale rocking as hard as he ever did. Boasting more wattage and speed then some players half his age, perhaps there's something in the water that gives Dale his electrifying edge.
Dale's style—a combination of reverb, guitar experimentation, Middle Eastern sound and a desire to recreate the sound of crashing waves—as developed and pioneered by him and turned into the West Coast surf guitar sound in the late '50s. Debuting with the recording Surfer's Choice in 1962, when Dale hit, the surf music explosion was on and he led the boom by his innate ability to innovate. Playing left-handed and upside down, Dale conducted his early fretboard experiments in Balboa, California. With the cooperation of Leo Fender, he trailblazed on the then new Fender Stratocaster, then went on to break the electric guitar sound-barrier by plugging his Strat into a Showman Amp; he powered-up further when he contributed to the development of the JBL D-130F, a musician-friendly power tool. With his friend Fender, the multi-instrumentalist Dale also developed the Fender Tank Reverb, which further contributed to his unique, dynamism on guitar.
Riding the wave of the surf music trend, Dale's music took a back seat during years he suffered from cancer, followed by complications with a leg injury that took him out of the water (he later became a snowboard enthusiast). But his wild styles inevitably returned to favor during the '80s new wave; he got an even greater boost when Quentin Tarantino used his sidewinding "Miserlou" as the main theme to Pulp Fiction in 1994, and this performance coincides with Dale riding the crest of his resurgence. He wastes no time giving the people what they want, delivering the Middle Eastern-inspired "Miserlou" at the top of the set. "Caravan" draws from similar influences. "Scalped" intros as a Flamenco tune before it explodes into a high-speed chase. Featuring numbers from his contemporary recordings Tribal Thunder and Unknown Territory, Dale takes a moment to voice his environmental concerns before unleashing his proposed solution to them: "Calling Up Spirits." "Trail of Tears" is his guitar homage to America's native people, set to a heavy percussive theme. The vintage number "Nitro" smokes with adrenaline, while a spooky and dramatic "Ghost Riders in the Sky" twists, turns, and eventually segues into a version of Link Wray's "Rumble." Dale also plays around with Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun," dedicating it to the guitarist. "I'm still here, Jimi," he says, and there's no denying it: 50 years after his invention of it, surf music is very much alive and well, and Dick Dale is still the gnarliest guitarist of them all.