King Of The Surf Guitar

Dick Dale

Capitol, 1963

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


When the instrumental group The Ventures was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame several weeks ago, I found myself thinking of Dick Dale; if any artist can be said to be the originator of the California instrumental surf sound, it’s Dick Dale.

Dale began his music career by playing small California clubs in the late 1950s. He was originally a cover artist, singing vocals and playing lead guitar on popular rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll hits of the day. While his vocals were more than adequate, it would be his unique guitar sound that he intertwined with sax runs that would establish him as a musical innovator, and his unique sound would be covered by hundreds of surf artists that would follow. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In 1962, Dale released his Surfer’s Choice album on the independent Del-Tone Label. This independent release sold an unprecedented 75,000 copies and prompted Capital, home of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, to sign him to a contract. King Of The Surf Guitar was Dale’s first Capital label album, released in 1963.

King Of The Surf Guitar is not just an instrumental album. Such Songs as “Dick Dale Stomp,” “What’d I Say” and “Greenback Dollar” all feature Dale’s r&b tinged vocals set to a twanging guitar, with his innovative saxophone sound filling in between the guitar breaks.

It is the instrumentals, however, that put the Dale sound across. His original “Break Time” and “Riders In The Sky” both establish his Stratocaster guitar as synonymous with the California surf sound. Brian Wilson and Jan Berry would later take this sound and use it as a background for their layered vocals, creating an eternal and unique musical idiom.

I saw Dale in concert in 1989. He was still playing his Stratocaster and while his sound has been modernized, his surf background was present. Besides, the man could just plain play the guitar.  Now in his seventies, Dale is still cranking out his unique sounds on the road.

King Of The Surf Guitar, now 45 years old, is an excellent look at the origins of a unique branch of American rock & roll.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.