Sparks/Reno, Nev. – Dick Dale wasn't nicknamed "King of the Surf Guitar" for nothing: he pretty much invented the style single-handedly, and no matter who copied or expanded upon his blueprint, he remains the fieriest, most technically gifted musician the genre ever produced. See Dale on Friday, June 19, in the Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
Dale's pioneering use of Middle Eastern and Eastern European melodies (learned organically through his familial heritage) was among the first in any genre of American popular music, and predated the teaching of such "exotic" scales in guitar-shredder academies by two decades.
The breakneck speed of his single-note staccato picking technique was unrivalled until it entered the repertoires of metal virtuosos like Eddie Van Halen, and his wild showmanship made an enormous impression on the young Jimi Hendrix.
But those aren't the only reasons Dale was once called the father of heavy metal. Working closely with the Fender company, Dale continually pushed the limits of electric amplification technology, helping to develop new equipment that was capable of producing the thick, clearly defined tones he heard in his head, at the previously undreamed-of volumes he demanded.
He also pioneered the use of portable reverb effects, creating a signature sonic texture for surf instrumentals. And, if all that weren't enough, Dale managed to redefine his instrument while essentially playing it upside-down and backwards — he switched sides in order to play left-handed, but without re-stringing it (as Hendrix later did).
"Let's Go Trippin'" was a huge local hit, and even charted nationally. Dale released a few more local singles, including "Jungle Fever," "Miserlou," and "Surf Beat," and in 1962 issued his (and surf music's) first album, the groundbreaking Surfer's Choice, on Del-Tone. Surfer's Choice sold like hotcakes around Southern California, which earned Dale a contract with Capitol Records and national distribution for Surfer's Choice. Dale was featured in Life magazine in 1963, which led to appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and the Frankie/Annette film Beach Party; he also released the follow-up LP King of the Surf Guitar, and went on to issue three more albums on Capitol through 1965. During that time, he developed a close working relationship with Leo Fender, who kept engineering bigger and better sound systems in response to Dale's appetite for louder, more maniacally energetic live performances.
Dick Dale plays one night, Friday, June 19, in the Celebrity Showroom at 8 p.m. Tickets are just $25 and are available by calling (800) 648-1177 or (775) 356-3300 or by visiting janugget.com. Dinner and show packages are available. “Do the Nugget Tonight!”