Not only is Dick Dale considered “King of the Surf Guitar” and one of the most influential musicians to ever pick up the instrument, he’s also a living testament to perseverance in the face of adversity.
The 74-year-old legend has carved out a long and storied career on his own terms, never bowing to the whims of the music industry. This might be the only reason the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame has not yet come knocking. But Dale has not only fought for his independence, he’s fought for his life. And won.
Fending off cancer more than once, Dale gives us many reasons to admire his relentless tenacity. And to pay homage when he comes to South Florida next month for two area concerts: Saturday, April 21, at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach; and Sunday, April 22, at Churchill’s Pub in Miami. [See all the show info below]
Consider the obstacles Dale has had to overcome in his more than 50-year career:
* In 1966, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer, which forced him to temporarily retire from music. Jimi Hendrix is referring to Dale in his 1967 song Third Stone from the Sun, when he says, “You’ll never hear surf music again.” Dale beat the disease, however, and soon learned to expand his horizons beyond the grind of the music business that had dominated his life for 10 years.
* In 1979, he almost lost a leg from a puncture wound he suffered while surfing polluted waters off Newport Beach, Calif. This made him an environmental activist, long before it was trendy.
* In 2008, now in his 70s, Dale had a cancerous tumor removed from his intestinal tract, followed by rounds of chemo and radiation treatment. He was in the midst of a comeback in 2010 when he needed more surgery due to complications from the 2008 procedure. He was in and out of the hospital over the course of several months but eventually recovered to the point where he was able to go back to touring.
With his son Jimmy by his side, Dale began his latest comeback with an appearance at the 2011 NAMM convention in January. They followed that with a successful series of tours last year, including a six-date run through Florida, that proved beyond a doubt that the old master had lost none of his on-stage magic.
Along the way, Dale has said he just tries to keep his mind on encouraging other cancer patients to stay strong. He told the Los Angeles Times that he traded his longstanding nickname – “King of the Surf Guitar” — for a new one: “Dick Dale, Cancer Warrior.”
How does he stay strong in the face of adversity? He cites a clean lifestyle (he’s never had a drink or taken drugs) and more than 30 years of martial arts training. Dale also credits a national curiosity and zest for life. Over the years he’s not only dabbled but excelled in a number of eclectic fields, from exotic animal trainer to pilot.
And, of course, Dale thrives off the energy and support of his fans while performing live on tour. He summed it up nicely at his Miami show last June, speaking to the crowd near the end of his set: “You’re my medicine.”
*** Saturday, April 21 – Dick Dale with Cutback and Skinny Jimmy and the Stingrays at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. (561) 832-9999. Ages 18 and older welcome. Tickets $20 in advance online at Slammie.MusicToday.com and by phone at (800) 594-TIXX, $25 at the door, 8 p.m. Facebook event
*** Sunday, April 22 – Dick Dale with Charlie Pickett, Skinny Jimmy and the Stingrays, Enough, Heartline Fits and Turboretardo at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 N.E. Second Ave., Miami. (305) 757-1807. Tickets $20 in advance online at Slammie.MusicToday.com and by phone at (800) 594-TIXX, $25 at the door, 8 p.m. Facebook event
March 2011 interview