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Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

Gone but not forgotten: Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale, 1937-2019

We knew him as the “King of the Surf Guitar,” the 1960s rocker whose version of Miserlou in the film Pulp Fiction revived both his career and the entire instrumental surf genre in the 1990s. But he was so much more than that.

He was an American music icon, the originator of a style and sound that has endured for more than a half-century, and a true hero for fighting medical hardships that kept him on stage and performing into his eighth decade on Earth. Dick Dale left this world on March 16, 2019, at age 81.
More below: Dick Dale in South Florida
* Check out our tribute featuring South Florida remembrances and photos

Related story on The Atomic Grog
Dick Dale, Skinny Jimmy Stingray at Churchill's in Miami in 2012
Skinny Jimmy’s Picks: The all-time top 5 Dick Dale songs

Dick was still performing right up until his death, though the circumstances were less than ideal due to extensive medical bills. His website still lists the dates he would have played had he not succumbed to the diseases that wrecked his seemingly indestructible body. The final show that was posted would have been just this month (Nov. 9), ironically in one of the world’s surfing capitals: Malibu, Calif.

Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011.
Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, June 13, 2011. (Atomic Grog photo)

He had survived several bouts with cancer and related diseases, including a near-fatal incident in the 1960s that inspired Jimi Hendrix to pen the lyric “we’ll never hear surf music again” in Third Stone from the Sun (1968). But Dick’s final battle was not one he could win.

Heart and kidney failure finally did him in after a lifetime of battling – and overcoming – every physical obstacle that came before him.

Born Richard Monsour in Boston on May 4, 1937, he first learned the ukulele and absorbed the traditions of his Lebanese father and Eastern European mother. He has said that he also learned the trumpet, banjo, piano, organ, harpsichord, trombone, saxophone, harmonica, xylophone and accordion. But once he heard big-band drummer Gene Krupa, it was all over and his course was set. Not on drums, an instrument he also mastered, but as a guitar pioneer.

When his family moved to Los Angeles in the 1954, he dove head-first into Hollywood. His first on-screen role was an uncredited bit as an Elvis Presley impersonator in the Marilyn Monroe movie Let’s Make Love. He started in the music biz in 1955 as a DJ, then played alongside Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry on a country music TV show. The stage name Dick Dale was reportedly given to him by radio/TV host Texas Tiny Cherry.

Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013
Dick Dale performs at Grand Central in Miami on April 25, 2013. (Atomic Grog photo)

But surf music became Dick Dale’s claim to fame, a sound he invented to emulate the surge of the ocean. He developed a guitar style featuring melodies that crisscrossed the beat like a surfer on a wave. His intense staccato picking style, combined with Eastern scales from his childhood influences, made for a sonic experience like no other.

“I don’t call myself a guitar player,” Dick told The Atomic Grog in a 2013 interview. “I’m a manipulator of an instrument. I just make a guitar scream with pain or pleasure.”

To match his sonic fury, he needed equipment that didn’t even exist at the time. Electric guitar pioneer Leo Fender joined forces with Dick to build a new instrument – dubbed “the Beast” – that could withstand the onslaught. To complete the package, they developed the first 100-watt amplifier, loud enough to fill any venue Dick Dale played.

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones rode the wave of instrumental rock to the top of the charts. In 1963, he performed Misirlou, an adaptation of a traditional Arabic song, on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the most influential TV variety shows of the day. He was the first rock guitarist invited to perform on that national stage, though he was later eclipsed by The Beatles, who famously made their U.S. debut on that same show.

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Minimalist Tiki

Recipes: Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party

Exotic cocktails at Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party

The Atomic Grog had the distinct pleasure of serving up cocktails on Aug. 27 for special guests of artist Mike “Pooch” Pucciarelli at the 20th anniversary party for Altered State Tattoo, the South Florida shop that has gained him a worldwide following for his highly creative ink.
See recipes below: Altered State Zombie | Mai Ta-IPA

Mike "Pooch" Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shopMike “Pooch” Pucciarelli gets festive at the party marking the 20th anniversary of his Altered State Tattoo shop.

Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach hosted the private bash, which also included a rare performance by Pooch’s hard-rocking band, Ferocious Stones; a lowbrow art marketplace featuring Altered State artists; and a DJ keeping the eclectic tunes flowing during the three-hour party. The Atomic Grog pop-up bar was featured on the back patio along with food by chef Corey Hall.

Pooch opened his modest shop in August 1996 in Lake Worth, funneling his creative energy into a new career as a small business owner. His talent as an artist (and musician) was always evident, with much of his early work centered around his acclaimed hardcore metal band Raped Ape. Pooch quickly became an in-demand tattooist, showcasing his highly original work in national magazines and building a loyal following. A lowbrow art career soon followed, with Pooch’s paintings shown at gallery shows from Los Angeles to Seattle to New York City.

Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)
Altered State Tattoo 20th anniversary party at Respectable Street: Kenny 5 (left), Pooch and JC Dwyer kick out the jams with Ferocious Stones. Many guests enjoyed cake, while Dwyer was a two-fisted drinker of Atomic Grog cocktails. (Atomic Grog photos)

The artist’s eye-popping surrealist work includes many exotic images, including Polynesian Tikis, Day of the Dead, and his own unique take on roller coasters. Full disclosure: The Atomic Grog home bar and surrounding walls feature a half-dozen Pooch prints, including Franken Tiki Island. Pooch painted a boomerang table that hangs behind the bar and also gave me this rare Tiki piece he painted. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of his work. I even traveled to his 2005 gallery shows in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Not only is Pooch a major talent in the lowbrow and tattoo art worlds, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. A seemingly imposing figure, Pooch is actually a gentle giant, literally and figuratively. Nowadays, we typically meet up for cocktails at The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, sharing our affinity for Tiki culture and exotic libations. Mrs. Hayward and I also often join Mike and Stacy (Mrs. Pooch) at the creative gastropub Sweetwater in Boynton Beach.

Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai-Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo's 20th anniversary party
Hurricane Hayward mixes up the Altered State Zombie and Mai Ta-IPA during Altered State Tattoo’s 20th anniversary party. (Atomic Grog photos)

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Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach

Updated Sept. 1
Longboards, the surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach, closed unexpectedly this week after five years of serving up fresh seafood and good vibes to the 500 block of Clematis Street. In its place, according to reliable sources, the veteran restaurateurs who own the building and neighboring Hullabaloo restaurant plan to open a second location of their successful Asian street-food concept, Kapow!

The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.
The Longboards closing announcement posted on Facebook.

A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page by the Sub-Culture Group says the owners “decided to close this chapter with Longboards and bring you another new, exciting concept to be unveiled soon.” According to reliable sources, however, the restaurant going into 519 Clematis St. won’t be entirely unique. Look for a new, expanded outpost of Kapow! Noodle Bar, a mainstay in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park since late 2011.
* Official sites: Longboards on Facebook | Sub-Culture.org
* Related: Goodbye Grub: Longboards closes on Clematis Street (The Palm Beach Post)
Aug. 9 update: Longboards closes to become second Kapow! location (New Times)
Sept. 1 update: Follow the progress on the Kapow WPB Facebook page

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sub-Culture Group honcho Rodney Mayo has been considering bringing Kapow! to Clematis Street since at least May 2012, when he was planning the opening of Hullabaloo (see story). The cozy artisan food and craft cocktail den, which launched just to the east of Longboards at 517 Clematis St. in January 2013, has been a smash success for the owners and chef Fritz Cassel. Hullabaloo has won numerous awards, acclaim, and high-profile exposure thanks to cheerleaders such as Emeril Lagasse, who featured the cutting-edge eatery on Emeril’s Florida on the Cooking Channel.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

 Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)
Longboards operated as a surf-themed restaurant and bar in downtown West Palm Beach from July 2011 through July 2016. (Facebook photo)

Longboards, by comparison, was a disappointment. While it was immaculately themed to surf culture and featured fresh seafood and an inviting atmosphere, the restaurant never caught on in a big way. When we visited last Thursday evening, less than a week before it closed its doors, it was nearly empty while Hullabaloo was bustling with diners and Clematis club crawlers happily consuming the creative food and high-end spirits. We sampled some impressive Tiki cocktails recently added to the Longboards menu, but the writing was apparently already on the wall.

With a much larger footprint (nearly 4,000 square feet, compared to Hullabaloo’s 1,700), Longboards had an uphill struggle with a lower-priced menu and a niche (seafood and a beachy theme) that could be attached to many other area eateries. Not that Mayo and his team didn’t find much success and high points over the past five years. Opening on July Fourth weekend in 2011, Longboards took over the long-vacant room that many old-timers and local music fans will remember as the site of Ray’s Downtown Blues bar from 1995 to 2007.
Atomic Grog past coverage
* Clematis Street rides a new wave with the opening of LongBoards
* Surf’s up: The story behind LongBoards

Continue reading “Kapow! replacing Longboards in downtown West Palm Beach”

Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm Beach with gastropub food, craft beverages

Update/review: Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

It’s tough to come up with a unique and exciting concept in today’s bar and restaurant scene, where new establishments continually push the creativity envelope, and patrons have seen just about everything. But leave it to South Florida nightlife kingpin Rodney Mayo to move the bar even higher.

Hullabaloo

Imagine walking into a small, dark space that evokes a New York City loft. It’s simple, clean and dark, illuminated only by candles and low lighting. Huge red-and-black leather booths span one wall, with reproductions of 1940s-era Eames chairs scattered about. Dead rock stars such as Freddy Mercury and Jim Morrison stare eerily from framed black-and-white photos. The sound of ’30s and ’40s jazz fills the air, while the smell of Italian-influenced gastropub food crafted in a wood-burning oven wafts throughout the room. Patrons sip craft beer, wine, coffee and unique cocktails. Welcome to Hullabaloo.

Like its name implies, Hullabaloo is poised to cause a commotion. Mayo and his managing partners will introduce Hullabaloo – located at 517 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach – with a grand opening party next Friday (Jan. 25) from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. There will be a private, invitation-only party on Thursday, Jan. 24. “We’re going to have a ragtime band play at the opening,” Mayo says. He also promises complimentary beverages and food tastings.

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Take 5: Rodney Mayo, guiding light of South Florida’s indie entertainment scene

To say the South Florida nightclub and restaurant scene would be a much more bland and boring place without Rodney Mayo would be a great understatement. From humble beginnings in 1987 at his Respectable Street Cafe in downtown West Palm Beach to today’s empire of 13 hip bars and eateries with more in the works, Mayo has been at the forefront of South Florida’s growth of independent, wildly creative nightspots.

Respectable Street 25th anniversary party

He’ll be celebrating his 25th year in business on Aug. 25 when Respectable Street hosts its annual block party on Clematis Street. The event will feature four stages and 25 bands, including punk legends The Misfits. The entire event is free and also will feature an open bar from 8 to 9 p.m. at participating clubs. We’ll have more updates as the event approaches, or check Respectable Street’s Facebook page.

We caught up with the reclusive Mayo recently at his latest project, the Hullabaloo gastropub, set to open this summer across from Respectable Street in the old Lounge space. Adjourning next door to his surf-themed Longboards restaurant, we posed these five questions:

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New downtown West Palm Beach gastropub to feature small bites, craft cocktails

UPDATES
* Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street
* Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm with gastropub food, craft beverages

A new dining and drinking option will soon be emerging on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach, featuring both delicious, gourmet small plates and high-quality adult beverages.

Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo
Next to Longboards (left), the space formerly occupied by The Lounge will soon become Hullabaloo. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

Hullabaloo promises “wood-fired grub,” a charcuterie, craft cocktails, and artesian beer. The “coming soon” sign at 517 Clematis beckons you to “drink, eat, raise some ruckus.” When it opens this summer, it will take over the small space adjoining Longboards, formerly occupied by The Lounge.

And there are other exciting plans for the 500 block of Clematis, as we found out last night after touring the future Hullabaloo and talking to owner Rodney Mayo. He and partner Scott Frielich have assembled an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge dining spots (Longboards, Kapow! Noodle Bar, Dada, Tryst, The Dubliner, Howley’s), and Hullabaloo looks to be yet another distinctly original concept. (Mayo’s brother, Michael, will also be on board as a part-owner and manager.)

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Concert review: Dick Dale’s comeback revs into overdrive

Dick Dale: April 21 at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, April 22 at Churchill’s Pub in Miami. See below: Video, photos from both shows

Concert reviews by Jim Hayward

Just two years ago, it was unclear if legendary guitarist Dick Dale would ever tour again. Now in his 70s, the man who invented surf music more than 50 years ago was battling complications in 2010 after a bout with cancer in 2008.

Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, April 21, 2012.
Dick Dale at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, April 21, 2012.

Then, miraculously, his health improved. He and his son Jimmy began playing acoustic sets, and by early 2011 plans were moving rapidly toward a limited touring schedule. Soon, the concept of “limited” flew out the window and Dale’s tour last spring and summer included six dates in Florida. The South Florida shows last June were nothing short of incredible [See review].

But rather than tire and grow weary on the road, Dale got stronger. “You’re my medicine,” he would tell the audience after his concerts, showing no signs of his frail health. Dale also clearly benefited from his clean-living lifestyle and years of physical fitness. His wife, Lana, also keeps him on track as his physical and spiritual caretaker.

More touring followed, and when 2012 rolled around he announced a rigorous 50-date jaunt across the country with not much down time. This time, there were nine Florida dates, including back-to-back nights in West Palm Beach and Miami on April 21-22. Would Dale and his band be showing any signs of rust or weariness? We would soon find out.

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South Florida welcomes Dick Dale this weekend, but when will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Dick Dale in South Florida

*** 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

Previous posts: Nothing can stop surf guitar king Dick Dale
The Atomic Grog celebrates first anniversary with the return of Dick Dale

By Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

Every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces its latest inductees, I immediately look to see if some of the great, influential legends are finally getting their due. Tops on this list of the criminally unrecognized is the King of the Surf Guitar, Dick Dale.

Unfortunately, the Hall is typically relegated to honoring the popular favorites, platinum selling bands with egos as big as their paychecks and entourage. Rarely is someone recognized for true musical achievement, especially if they buck the rock establishment.

Dick Dale is the undisputed master of the surf guitar
Dick Dale is the undisputed master of the surf guitar.

So as 74-year-old Dick Dale rolls into town this weekend – perhaps driving the van himself and accompanied by wife Lana, son Jimmy, bassist Sam Bolle and small crew – we need to treasure his legendary status. Catch his shows Saturday and Sunday and witness a marvel on stage. Then line up at the merch table, where he still greets every fan who’s interested in meeting him after every show.

No, they don’t make ’em like Dick Dale anymore. Here then are seven reasons why he needs to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Got Tiki trepidation? Here’s a Hukilau survival guide

The 2012 Hukilau will be held Thursday through Sunday, April 19-22, at The Mai-Kai and several Fort Lauderdale beachside hotels. Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook

The Hukilau

To the uninitiated, this week’s avalanche of Tiki culture, retro art and music, rum drinks and revelry may be a bit over the top. To the devotees, it’s a Polynesian paradise come to life. If you’re not quite clued in to what’s going on, it can be a bit overwhelming.

But the best part about The Hukilau and all the related events happening this week in and around Fort Lauderdale is that it’s set up like a buffet. You can sample as little or as much as you like. Just make sure to have a designated driver if you’re really going for the gusto. Below is a daily rundown on what to expect and a little guidance from a veteran. Or Click here for the full schedule. TheHulilau.com also offers these tips from the natives.

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Nothing can stop surf guitar king Dick Dale

Previous post: The Atomic Grog celebrates first anniversary with the return of Dick Dale

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.

Dick Dale in South Florida

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:

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