Dick Dale: King of the Surf Guitar!


Last night a legend graced the stage of the Cabooze in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dick Dale, the KING OF THE SURF GUITAR knighted the audience in the name of Rock and Roll. This was his eleventh year of coming to Minnesota and asked, "Why ain’t my picture up on that wall"? He was pointing at posters of Buddy Holly and Elvis, guys he passed back when their music was still played on popular radio by teeny boppers.

Wearing trademark black and brandishing a classic Fender Stratacaster, the famous King had a packed bar of "DICKHEADS" (as his followers are called) clamoring to see his every move. Not to be confused with other self-proclaimed KINGS, this one actually stayed to let his subjects bask in his aura long after the show was over. He signed autographs, talked, and just handed down his utter charm to waiting fans for hours. It is no wonder he has been the vehicle used to launch movies like Pulp Fiction of which he did the very memorable intro number screaming on the guitar.

When the opening band was finished at around ten there was a pause in the evening.

Then the band approached the stage; less The King. A moment later while looking around, the trademark riffs of electric guitar marrying mandolin could be heard coming from out of nowhere. When I turned around there Dick Dale was, not a foot away, playing the guitar as he emerged from a back room. The crowd lit up like a wild fire as he passed through the audience, heading to the stage.

The opening numbers were classic songs of the very early 1960s, before mop tops and LSD. This was an era of bikers, surfers, and rough n’ tuff drinkin’ music. The audience was all ages, but the definite smell of the open road was emanating from the leather biker jackets of a majority of fans.

I imagined a beach party and an innovative group of drifters meeting on the edge of town to play a new kind of music. Raw and biting to get out of it’s cage Dick Dale fights with the guitar to hold back the rush of watery sounds like a wave. Sometimes it is not clear if he is playing the guitar or riding a very dangerous wave out to uncharted waters.

He teased and did what can only be named Surf Blues so aptly by a member of the crowd. This would probably be the only concert where a tough biker would be standing on a chair to see and screaming like a crazed Beatlemania participant. I had to stretch to see around them sometimes, but was not going to tell them to get out of the way… I would hate to have Dick Dale's music bite me in a bar room brawl with true grit.

When Misirlou was played the crowd became ecstatic. He stopped..

He began to tell a story about how JCPenny’s had contacted him to use the song in an ad for Mother’s Day.. The crowd answered the Surf King with very loud Boos. He gave an expletive about the situation and broke into the song. A King doesn’t need to sell out, his subjects protect him from such dangers. He played through the night and showed just how great some one must be to innovate and begin a new style of music. From the Beach Boys to the Beatles everyone admires the image and sound that Dick Dale created on California beaches so long ago. He was a superstar when music had none, he is one of the real living legends.

Today on MTV or E! one can see celebrities and how they run from cameras and fans. They hide in giant castles up high and would never dream of coming down to the level of a commoner.

Not Dick Dale.

I had a moment like so many others after the show to talk to him. It was difficult to be noticed over his trance with the young woman he was with before me. He told her that she had the most beautiful face and snuck a few kisses on the cheek to show his admiration. He sat with people for hours, shaking hands, shooting the breeze, and just giving a moment to each person. He was both charming and generally touched by the devotion of so many subjects to his way. He is timeless like the music he created so long ago. Even the young women he kisses still blush a bit at the King OF The Surf Guitar.