Minimalist Tiki

Surf guitarst Laramie Dean, inspired by mentor Dick Dale, overcomes similar hurdles

Updated July 25, 2013
Photos: Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale in South Florida

Laramie Dean with Jimmy Dale: Friday, July 19, at Churchill’s Pub; and Saturday, July 20, at The Mai-Kai and Mickey’s Bar. Click here for full info
Previous story: Laramie Dean returns to South Florida for surf-punk party

Laramie Dean, who cut his teeth as a surf guitarist in the South Florida music scene for five years before settling in Los Angeles, returns this weekend for his first area shows in more than two years. When we last saw him, he was opening for his idol, the legendary Dick Dale, in June 2011. Why the extended absence?

Laramie Dean at Churchill's

Like Dale, who has battled cancer for the past five years, Dean has had his own health issues. Luckily, both are back on the road this summer. While Dale tours the Northeast, Dean has hooked up with Dick’s son, Jimmy, for a July jaunt from California to Florida and back.

While Dean likes to emulate the 75-year-old “king of the surf guitar,” his illness was an eerie and unintended direction. “I had a staph infection, not cancer,” Dean said by phone just before hitting the road. “It’s like a blood infection. It just kills your body.” And it put a serious crimp in his musical ambitions for the better part of the past two years.

Dean, 32, first came down with an infection in Europe while on tour with Agent Orange in 2009. He thought it was gone when he embarked on his lifelong dream, a summer tour with Dick Dale in 2011. [Story | Review/photos] But the infection came back, and it got worse during a subsequent two-week stint opening for roots-rock guitarist Deke Dickerson.

“I was in the hospital for 42 days, and it was pretty bad,” Dean said. “I was paralyzed on the right side of my body. I had seven surgeries just to clean up the infection. But it’s been about eight months with no infection now.” Dean’s last operation was one year ago, in July 2012, and he recently got an MRI that gave him a clean bill of health. “Everything looks good now,” he said.

Modern Caribbean Rum
Jimmy Dale's double-bass kit for his tour with Laramie Dean
Jimmy Dale’s double-bass kit for his tour with Laramie Dean. (From Facebook)

The Dean & Dale partnership

Dean has seen Jimmy Dale, now 21, blossom since his early days as a surf guitar child prodigy. “Jimmy is so comfortable onstage,” Dean said. “Dick literally had him on stage playing a drum solo when he was 18 months old.” He learned guitar and drums from his famous father and went on the road constantly. [See photos on] “On school breaks, Jimmy would tour with his dad,” Dean said. “The kid was born onstage. He’s been touring his whole life.”

When Dean found himself in need of a drummer in the summer of 2010, he wasn’t thinking of Jimmy when he consulted Dick, who suggested his 17-year-old son. It turns out it was the perfect fit. “It’s been a lot of fun,” Dean said. “He’s like my partner, really. I’ve never had too many regular guys in the band, but Jimmy’s there now.”

Their first gig together with bassist Trevor Lucca, who was also a budding 17-year-old Southern California musician when Dean found him on Craigslist, came after a cross-country drive to Gainesville, Fla. “We drove straight from California,” Dean said. “Our first song together was Pipeline (The Chantays’ 1962 classic). We didn’t even rehearse, we just went onstage and played. It was awesome.”

Then came the 2011 Dick Dale tour with Jimmy playing drums in both bands. “I love him, he’s a good kid,” Dean said. “Jimmy’s excited to hit the road. We have a good chemistry. I’ve known him for so long, since he was 10.” That was when Dean first followed his surf-rock dream to California to roadie for Dick Dale.

Laramie Dean at The Vagabond in Miami, June 12, 2011
Laramie Dean on tour with Dick Dale at The Vagabond in Miami, June 12, 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Among Dean’s fondest memories of his time with Dick Dale were some of the quieter moments. Between tours, they’d relax for a few weeks on Dale’s boat in Huntington Beach. “It’s cool to have that alone time with him when he’s relaxed,” Dean said. “On tour can be kind of stressful.” Not many people know that Dick Dale loves movies, Dean said. “I never saw so many movies in my life as I did with Dick. I love him. I had a really good time touring with him. I still talk to him at least once a month and go out to the ranch.”

Chasing the dream

Dean’s first stint in Los Angeles on Dick Dale’s crew came in 2004-2005, after he made a name for himself in South Florida from 2001 to 2004 with a retro surf-rock style alien to area clubs. But Dean’s intensity, musicianship and professionalism quickly won him a loyal local following.

“I played a lot in New Hampshire and New York, where I grew up,” Dean said. “I learned a lot playing in the Northeast.” One of his early industry friends was Joe Queer, founder of Portsmouth, N.H., punk band The Queers. Dean’s early influences dipped heavily into punk, including Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray. Dean still considers his music “surf punk,” even though most casual fans would be hard-pressed to find an overt punk influence. It’s more about the vibe, the spirit and the attitude.

And playing in South Florida’s tough punk-inspired scene gave Dean the confidence to leave and eventually do the tour with Dick Dale. “People remember me from my first shows down there in 2001 and 2002,” he said. I’ve got 10 years of history there.” He relocated back to South Florida in 2006 and recorded his only full-length album, Surf Riot, in the summer of 2007 with such notable area musicians as Dominic Sirianni (bass). Featuring 10 tracks of originals and classic surf covers, it made a splash on the local scene. Three pressings of 1,000 each have sold out, but you can still find it on iTunes.

The CD’s release party was held at The Mai-Kai, followed the next night by an opening slot with The Misfits at Culture Room and then a Miami date at Churchill’s. Dean was popular at clubs all across the area and also was a hit with the Tiki crowd at The Hukilau for several years. But he was getting restless and wanted to be closer to Dick Dale and the music industry in L.A.

Laramie Dean, Jimmy Dale, Alex Lewis, Trevor Lucca
The current band, clockwise from upper left: Laramie Dean, Jimmy Dale, Alex Lewis, Trevor Lucca. (From Facebook)

Dean left for California in 2008 and has continued to pursue his dreams. He’s been a full-time musician for eight years now, a long way from his early days working at Guitar Center in Hallandale and trying to convince people that surf rock was the only music for him. Dean always considers Miami and Fort Lauderdale one of his home areas. “People appreciate me there,” he said, because they saw his early struggles. His aspiration was to play surf music full-time, tour cross-country and play with Dick Dale, and he went for it. “I reached that goal,” he said. “Hopefully, that inspires people.”

Allies in California

When Dean made the move, he immediately hooked up with an old friend, author/comedian/musician Greg Behrendt. “I lived with him for a few months in his guest house, then I got the old Agent Orange apartment in West Hollywood,” Dean said. “I like being near Dick and being able to go see him.”

Dean has one recording under his belt in L.A. He did a split single with Behrendt’s band, The Reigning Monarchs. “He wants to do another record with me this summer,” Dean said. The Agent Orange relationship, rooted in both the punk and surf scenes, has also served Dean well in gaining experience and contacts. He estimates he’s done more than 400 tour dates, up to 100 a year, with the influential Southern California punk-surf-skate band, serving as opening act and tour manager.

Laramie Dean on tour in Pensacola with Alex Lewis (left) and Jimmy Dale
Laramie Dean on tour in Pensacola with Alex Lewis (left) and Jimmy Dale. (From Facebook)

But beyond his industry friends, he sees little difference between Los Angeles and South Florida. “I just like California,” he said. “I like living here.” Plus it affords him lots of options in music and entertainment. “It’s all here,” Dean said. That includes an abundance of musicians looking for gigs. “That’s the one thing about L.A. that’s different,” he said. “There’s so many musicians here. Every time I put an ad up (on Craigslist), I get 40-50 people wanting to play. But I try to find the right guys for the job. It’s not all about experience. It’s more about attitude.”

One of those guys with the right attitude is Trevor Lucca, who has stuck with Dean and Dale despite his own blossoming career. Since the 2011 tour and Dean’s illness, he’s filled in on bass with Dick Dale and also played with TSOL. He also started his own band, Hardship Anchors, a three-piece heavily influenced by early ’70s punk. “He’s a real talented kid,” Dean said. “It was natural to just bring his band along on tour. The newest member of Dean’s touring band is sax player Alex Lewis, a 24-year-old college student. Of course, Dean found him on Craigslist.

When Dean gets back to California, he hopes to take the next step on his musical journey. “I want to make a new record,” he said. “I’m saving my money to make a new record.”


*** Friday, July 19 – Laramie Dean with Pool Party, Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays, Hardship Anchors, Sandrats and D.J. Skidmark at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 N.E. Second Ave., Miami. (305) 757-1807. Ages 18 and older welcome. Tickets $10 at the door, 8 p.m. [Facebook event]

*** Saturday, July 20 – Laramie Dean and Jimmy Dale perform an acoustic set during happy hour at The Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 563-3272. Free, 5 to 7 p.m. All ages welcome. [Facebook event]

*** Saturday, July 20 – Laramie Dean with Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays, Hardship Anchors, and Morgan La Rue and The Shimmy Shake Revue at Mickey’s Bar, 350 S.W. 12th Ave., Pompano Beach. (954) 941-1611. Ages 18 and older welcome. Tickets $10 at the door, 8 p.m. [Facebook event]

More coverage online
* Pool Party premiere video for Born Too Loose
* Dean & Dale: Protégé and son of Dick Dale head to El Paso

Related links
* Laramie Dean | Facebook page | Twitter | Reverb Nation | Wikipedia
* Pool Party | Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays | Hardship Anchors
* Churchill’s | The Mai-Kai | Mickey’s Bar

Past Atomic Grog coverage
* Review: Laramie Dean with Dick Dale in June 2011
* Dick Dale tour was 7 years in the making

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