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Dick Dale: The king of the surf guitar

Though it may be hard to believe, Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar, is actually from Massachusetts.

Though it may be hard to believe, Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar, is actually from Massachusetts. Dale was born in South Boston and raised in Quincy.

"I have many, many fond memories there," notes Dale. "I remember playing 'Silent Night' as an instrumental with my acoustic guitar in the winter at Quincy Point and walking home in the snow."

When his father got a job offer from Howard Hughes in 1954, the family moved to California and Dale began surfing -- a hobby that would provide the primary influence for his signature sound. "Gene Krupa's drums and the way he accentuated became my picking style. I went from that to copying the sound of getting caught up in a very big wave," says Dale. "I was also raising lions and tigers and preserving the breeds of the jungle. When they would scream to me to be fed or to come play with them they would go 'Yaoooooo.' I would try to imitate that sound on my guitar. So it was a mixture of everything -- Gene Krupa, lions and tigers, and the ocean."

Besides being known as founder of surf rock, Dale is also known reverently as the "father of heavy metal." "In those days the sound was created by an output transformer and they were only 10 or 15 watts and only had 6 to 8 inch speakers," notes Dale. "I started buying these things and they would keep catching on fire because I was pushing the ampage."

After his friend Leo Fender noticed the demand for a bigger sound, he went to work on making Dale the first ever 100-watt amplifier. "We plugged in the amplifier and it was like going from a VW Bug to a Testarossa racecar," says Dale. "That's when I made the world's ears bleed. Then we got all the people who copied me."

Now 75, Dale is coping with cancer and diabetes. While his health issues have kept him from surfing, they haven't stopped him from touring. Traveling together with his son who plays drums, Dale's wife also joins him on his journey as his nurse. "She's the one keeping me alive," says Dale. "We're on the road to help people going through the same thing that I'm going through and to have a different attitude and forget about our pain by helping other people deal with theirs. So we laugh about it, we swear about it and we say, 'What can we do for you?'"

 
 
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