Home / FENDER ARTISTS / Dick Dale

Dick Dale

Dick Dale is a Fender legend, period.

The self-styled “King of Surf Guitar,” Dale will be forever remembered as the man behind the epic instrumental “Miserlou”; a pioneer whose staccato machine-gun picking style, Middle Eastern melodic sense and reverb-drenched sound launched an entire genre. He is a longtime Fender friend and family member who was often consulted by Leo Fender himself on design matters during the company’s original ’50s-era golden age.

Always an enigmatic figure, Dale remains an active recording and touring artist to this day, in addition to being an accomplished pilot, horseman, archer and martial arts expert. Further, while many of Dale’s onetime surf-music contemporaries never even dipped so much as a pinky toe in the wild Pacific, Dale really was an avid surfer.

Dale was born Richard Anthony Monsour in Beirut, Lebanon, in May 1937, into a musical family. Indeed, the Middle Eastern tonality of much of his music can be attributed to his upbringing and earliest influences; he is often credited as one of the first guitarists to use non-Western scales. Although Dale plays many instruments, he is known for a highly unusual self-taught style in which plays a right-handed Stratocaster® guitar upside down (Dale is left-handed) without restringing it accordingly (he continued to use this reverse stringing method even after acquiring a left-handed guitar).

With a highly percussive rhythmic style and penchant for dramatic bends and rapid-fire staccato picking using unusually heavy-gauge strings, Dale developed a unique guitar voice that he later said was intended to emulate the crashing of surf or the roar of lions. He was intensely interested in achieving unheard-of guitar tones and volume that led him to push the limits of equipment available in the late 1950s. He adopted a very “wet”-sounding reverb and experimented with Fender amplifiers; Dale is said to be the first guitarist to use a 100-watt guitar amp, and he was involved in the creation of the popular Fender Showman® amp.

Dale made a name for himself packing Southern California clubs and dance halls (most notably the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, Calif.) in the late ’50s with his backing band, the Del-Tones. His 1961 single “Let’s Go Trippin’” is widely regarded as the first surf rock song; his first full-length album was 1962’sSurfer’s Choice. He soon penned the famous single “Miserlou,” and his second album was titled after his nickname, The King of Surf Guitar (1963).

After a lengthy early retirement from music, Dale returned to performing and recording in the early 1980s. A new generation of fans discovered Dale and his music when “Miserlou” was used as the theme for Quentin Tarantino’s landmark 1994 film Pulp Fiction. He has released several albums since then and continues to perform and tour.

Fender introduced the sparkling Dick Dale Signature Stratocaster guitar in 1994.