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Dick Dale, the progenitor of surf-rock, died in March. We pay tribute to a man who invented an entire sound and influenced generations of guitarists…
The left-handed Dale’s trademark sound stemmed from playing a right-handed Strat upside down
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

It was the kids who called me ‘King Of The Surf Guitar,’” said Dick Dale, whose regal reign of more than half a century came to a close with his 16 March death at the age of 81.The last few years were often excruciating for the pulverizing southpaw axeman. He was forced to tour relentlessly to earn enough money to finance health insurance, medical bills, and the colostomy bags that he wore as a result of a gruelling bout with rectal cancer that first struck in 1966 and recurred a couple of decades later.

“The money won’t come in unless I go on the road,” said Dale. “Once I get on the stage, you push that button, and your body goes.”

It was a different story during the early 60s, when a healthy young Dale laid the groundwork for the US surf music craze with his non-stop pile-driving fretwork. What’s more, he lived the idyllic life that he espoused in his music, surfing daily in his adopted West Coast environs, riding his motorcycle, and frolicking with his collection of exotic animals. Dale seldom journeyed far from home in those days because he didn’t have to. He drew thousands of dancers to the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa for two solid years before relocating his shindigs in 1962.

Although he’ll forever be associated with warm and sunny southern California, Richard Anthony Monsour was born 4 May 1937 on the other side of the country in Boston, Massachusetts. The musical heritage of his Lebanese father’s family was highly influential to the lad, who was initially drawn to percussive pursuits.

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