Don’t call Laramie Dean obsessed. He’s just a guy who knows what he wants and knows how to get there, even if it takes seven years of slogging it out on the surf and punk touring circuits, several cross-country moves and a lot of luck.
In 2004, when the budding surf-rock guitarist heard that his icon, Dick Dale, was in the market for a guitar tech, he dropped everything and drove from New Hampshire to Los Angeles. As fate would have it, Laramie got the gig. But not before the “King of the Surf Guitar,” known for his no-nonsense approach to life, gave him some blunt advice: “You better know your shit!”
Time has proven that, indeed, Laramie Dean knows his shit. He also knows instrumental surf music and the concert touring industry. He has not only carved out his own niche as a solo artist, he’s spent years on the road as a guitar tech, roadie, bandmate and tour manager with icons and friends such as Dale, Agent Orange and The Queers. Now, he’s added tour promoter and booking agent to his repertoire.
Since moving to Los Angeles from South Florida in late 2009, he’s had a new compulsion: Getting the legendary 74-year-old Dale, who almost single-handedly invented the surf genre in the late ’50s, back out on the road for a full-blown retro surf tour. Sounds simple enough, but several major hurdles had to be overcome.
The headstrong Dale had long called his own shots, for years operating independently without a manager or booking agent. His creative direction took many turns since surf’s heyday and he was famously known to abhor the tag “surf guitar legend,” correctly asserting that he was indeed a “guitar legend” of much greater magnitude. Was Jimi Hendrix just a simple “psychedelic guitar hero”? Of course not.
His career was given new life by the 1990s surf revival, but his live shows had become a mixed affair. The obligatory classics such as Miserlou – exposed to a new generation by Quenten Tarrintono in the enduing pop-culture classic Pulp Fiction – were mixed in with covers of decidedly non-surf bands such as Deep Purple.
After Laramie moved to South Florida, he continued to cross paths with Dick. The guitar prodigy opened for his mentor at one of Dick’s last area shows, Valentines Day 2007 at Churchill’s in Miami. Over the course of a few short years, Laramie had risen to the top of the South Florida local music scene. He reinvigorated the moribund local surf scene, infused it with punk-rock enthusiasm and recorded the classic Surf Riot! CD with a stable of top area musicians.
But things weren’t going as well for Dick. Now in his 70s, he had a cancerous tumor removed from his intestinal tract in 2008, followed by rounds of chemo and radiation treatment. He cut back his performing schedule as he attempted a long, slow comeback.
Meanwhile, Laramie made his inevitable move to L.A. He knew that Southern California was not only closer to Dick but is also the undisputed surf music capital of the world. Laramie didn’t waste any time ingratiating himself into the scene while also hitting the road whenever he could. He toured often with Agent Orange, sold out of Surf Riot! CDs and released a split 7-inch with The Reigning Monarchs, a fellow Southern California instrumental surf band featuring author/comedian Greg Behrendt.
He started reaching out to Dick, hoping to get back out on the road with his idol. Last summer, however, Dick’s health took a turn for the worse. He was hospitalized for surgery to repair a leak that went undetected during the the 2008 procedure and was forced to cancel a highly anticipated comeback tour of Japan with his 18-year-old son, Jimmy. He was in and out of the hospital over the course of several months. Thankfully, the treatment appears to have been successful.
Laramie continued to tour, making a long trek to South Florida and solidifying his touring band. Dick’s son Jimmy jumped aboard on drums. Trevor Lucca, an 18-year-old surfer from Long Beach, joined on bass. Laramie also hooked up with members of The Ghastly Ones, The Dynotones, and Big Sandy in a new band called The Finksville 5.
Meanwhile, Dick’s recovery accelerated, energized by an outpouring of support from fans and the September release of the career retrospective CD, Guitar Legend: The Very Best of Dick Dale. It’s a great career snapshot, taking the listener on a ride from the early days of surf (Let’s Go Trippin’, Shake N’ Stomp) to the enduring classics (Miserlou, Hava Nagila, Riders In The Sky), and into the rarity vault (a cover of Hendrix’ Third Stone From The Sun and the Grammy-nominated collaboration with Stevie Ray Vaughan on Pipeline).
He started to work his way back via acoustic shows with Jimmy, culminating in an appearance at the 2011 NAMM convention in January. At last, all the stars seemed to be in alignment. Laramie began serious talks with Dick about touring in 2011 as he wrapped up his winter dates with Agent Orange.
At long last, the tour Laramie Dean – and all surf music fans – had hoped for was close to fruition. Considering Dick’s fragile health, it was first envisioned as a series of weekend dates, perhaps a cross country flight or two, then a return home to rest. Keeping him healthy was top priority.
In true punk tradition, Laramie took matters into his own hands and booked the tour himself, adding new dates at Dick’s request. As Dick’s health improved, the tour has grown into a jaunt across the Southwest, into Florida and (in the works) back across the South and West. The Sunshine State benefits the most from Laramie’s old contacts with a total of six dates:
Saturday, June 11 – St. Petersburg (State Theatre)
Sunday, June 12 – Miami (The Vagabond)
Monday, June 13 – West Palm Beach (Respectable Street)
Wednesday, June 15 – St. Augustine (The Original Cafe Eleven)
Thursday, June 16 – Winter Park (Drakes Boat House)
Saturday, June 18 – Pensacola (The Vinyl Music Hall)
When Dick gets home, he wont’ have time to rest. He’ll be special guest at the L.A. Guitar Festival at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on July 3. The following day, he’ll serve as grand marshal of the Fourth of July Parade in Huntington Beach.
The upcoming tour is a surf music fan’s dream come true thanks to Laramie’s combination of ambition, reverence and persistence. Rehearsals are under way with members of Laramie’s backing band – including Jimmy Dean on drums and Trevor Lucca on bass – joining Dick for this collaborative tour. Shows will consist of a Laramie Dean set followed by a Dick Dale set.
Can the kids keep up with the master? Will Laramie Dean’s dream tour be everything it promises to be? Will Dick Dale ride this new wave of interest into another exciting phase of his illustrious career? We’ll soon find out.
Two South Florida dates