Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of special features on instro surf music by Skinny Jimmy Stingray, a guitarist and longtime fan of vintage instrumental rock. His past and future columns can be found here on The Atomic Grog. Catch Jimmy in a special Retro Rekindled event on Dec. 15 at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. He’ll discuss the history of surf music with The Atomic Grog, followed by a live performance with his band.
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: The all-time top 5 Dick Dale songs
Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar, was a rock ‘n’ roll legend for more than 60 years until he sadly passed away in March at age 81. He has been a major influence on the music I have played and written for the past 15 years. Of all the music he created, I have chosen these five songs that stand out as my favorites.
Undisputedly THE Dick Dale song of all time. Upon its release it was uncommon, ground-breaking, and some serious wild-ass aggressive guitar for 1962. Miserlou turned heads all over the country and became an inspiration to every rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, then and now. Its musical impact has not diminished with time. Miserlou will always live on as the legacy of Dick Dale.
2. The Wedge
Speedy and full of hooks, 1963’s The Wedge flows so well. It was often covered by his contemporaries, and because of its catchy and surfy vibe, riffs were stolen by bands that did one-off singles. But there’s more. As told by Dick Dale, “The Wedge” was a notoriously dangerous surfing spot. While surfing there, he was thrown by a wave so hard that he was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he was lying on the shore. He got to his knees and thanked God he was still alive. This experience inspired him to write the song. Enough said. This one goes down as one of the most important Dick Dale songs off all time.
3. Shake N’ Stomp
From early ’62, this is one of Dick Dale’s most memorable original pieces. With a solid 12-bar, double-picked riff, Shake N’ Stomp has lots of lead guitar soloing and a cool saxophone. Created during the early stages of Dick’s experimentation with reverb, Shake N’ Stomp is a milestone in the history of surf guitar music.
4. The Victor
Released in 1964, this is the classic example of Dick Dale’s ground-breaking style. The Victor combines exotic Middle Eastern melodies delivered with a relentless staccato technique that became his unique signature sound. The powerful sound of his guitar moves the listener to understand why he’s the godfather of surf guitar. Dick was truly a victor in life as well as a musical icon.
5. Let’s Go Trippin’
This was Dick Dale’s first hit single, released in 1961. Trippin’ was slang for seeking out new places to surf on the southern coast of California. When hearing its bouncy melody, the listener can imagine cruisin’ with friends in a surfboard-topped Woody. Whenever I saw him play this song, I felt a sense of youthful enthusiasm in his guitar. Age never compromised his ability to transport the listener back to a time when surf music was in its infancy. The twangy blues progression was loved by young guitarists of the time, who were just discovering how fun it was to play rock ‘n’ roll. It will always be fun for me, too!
Dick Dale uncovered something special in the sandy beaches of Southern California that, like a powerful wave, could not be contained. His sound was like the roar of an ocean washing across all lands and cultures, leaving in its wake a gift of music that transcends time and moves people.
Let us know your favorite Dick Dale songs in the comments below.
More on The Atomic Grog
* Dick Dale’s discography and top YouTube videos
Gone but not forgotten
Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019
Check out our tribute featuring South Florida remembrances and photos plus obituaries and social media reaction.
Past Atomic Grog stories featuring Dick Dale
* Dick Dale: The most interesting man in rock ‘n’ roll
* Cancer survivor and rock legend Dick Dale: ‘I had both feet in the grave’
* A Dick Dale concert is always the best way to celebrate another year of The Atomic Grog
Concert review, photos: 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
* Dick Dale shreds all doubts with sizzling shows
* Dick Dale, playing the tour of his life, hits South Florida
* What makes Dick Dale the ‘King of the Surf Guitar’?
* Dick Dale’s 2011 tour was seven years in the making
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks
* The top 5 most sinister surf songs