Dick Dale: The most interesting man in rock ‘n’ roll

Most people know him as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” and for his enduring hit song Miserlou, popularized in the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. But there’s a lot more to Dick Dale, the seemingly indestructible rock ‘n’ roll legend who will be making his SunFest debut this year at age 77 on Wednesday, April 30.

Dick Dale

Legendary guitarist Dick Dale performs live on his 2013 tour at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013.

March 2013 interview: Cancer survivor, rock legend Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’

Dale is still battling the ravages of cancer that sidelined him for several years. But he’s made an amazing comeback, touring relentlessly and hitting South Florida clubs for the past three years. Now he finds himself on the main SunFest stage opening for Kid Rock.
[See the April 30 schedule].

But if you know anything about Dick Dale, his resilience should come as no surprise. Over the course of nearly 60 years in the music business, he has established himself as a renaissance man determined to live life to the fullest, without drugs and alcohol. You probably know that Dale invented surf music and helped Fender develop the modern guitar amp, but here are a few more fascinating facts about a fascinating man:

* Before playing electric guitar, Dale learned the drums, ukulele and trumpet. He has also mastered the banjo, piano, organ, harpsichord, trombone, xaxophone, harmonica, xylophone and accordion. He claims that he rarely picks up the guitar, except when going on stage. And though known mainly as an instrumentalist, he also sings lead vocals in his current band.

* He started in the music biz in 1955 as a DJ in California, then played alongside Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry on a country music TV show.

* He was the first rock guitarist to perform on television’s iconic Ed Sullivan show in the early 1960s (see video below).

* His groundbreaking guitar technique influenced not only generations of surf guitarists, but also such rock gods as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.

* Dale beat the odds by overcoming cancer several times in his career. During a scare in the 1970s, Hendrix referred to Dale in the song Third Stone from the Sun when he said: “You’ll never hear surf music again.”

* Over the course of his life, Dale also became an accomplished surfer, artist, photographer, horseman, exotic animal trainer, martial arts expert, archer, pilot and home-builder. He likes to say that he thrives at being a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” Guitar fans may beg to differ with that.

In print: See this story in the latest issue of Purehoney magazine.

SUNFEST: April 30 through May 4 along Flager Drive on the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown West Palm Beach. Go to SunFest.com for full schedule and ticket info.

On the Web
* Surf rock king touring to stay alive — literally (The Palm Beach Post)

Past Atomic Grog coverage
2013 tour:
* Cancer survivor and rock legend Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’
2012 tour:
* Concert review: Dick Dale’s comeback revs into overdrive
* South Florida welcomes Dick Dale, but when will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
* Nothing can stop surf guitar king Dick Dale
* The Atomic Grog celebrates first anniversary with the return of Dick Dale
2011 tour:
* Dale shreds all doubts with sizzling shows
* Dick Dale playing the tour of his life | What makes Dick Dale the ‘King’?
* Tour was 7 years in the making

Official sites
* DickDale.com | The Dick Dale virtual museum

About Hurricane Hayward

A professional journalist and Florida resident for more than 30 years, Jim "Hurricane" Hayward shares his obsession with Polynesian Pop and other retro styles on his blog, The Atomic Grog. Jim's roots in mid-century and reto culture go back to his childhood in the 1960s, when he tagged along with his parents to Tiki restaurants and his father's custom car shows. His experience in journalism, mixology, and more than 20 years as an independent concert promoter make him a jack-of-all-trades in the South Florida scene. A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Jim is a longtime web producer for The Palm Beach Post. In his spare time, he has promoted hundreds of rock, punk, and indie concerts under the Slammie Productions name since the early 1990s. In 2011, he launched The Atomic Grog to extensively cover events, music, art, cocktails, and culture with a retro slant. Jim earned his nickname by virtue of both his dangerous exotic drinks and his longtime position producing The Post's tropical weather website.
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