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SURF’S UP!

IN 2011, CLASSIC SURF GUITAR CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY. IT’S A CULT PASSION, BUT FROM DICK DALE TO LOS STRAITJACKETS, SURF GUITAR IS SOME OF THE GREATEST TWANG YOU WILL EVER HEAR…

SURF GUITAR

If a guitarist tells you they are obsessed by instrumentals, it’s likely you’ll imagine them to be a fan of shred virtuosi Steve Vai and Joe Satriani or, depending on their age, a devotee of early twangers the Shadows. There is, of course, a third way – surf guitar. Some may argue ‘surf’ isn’t a true genre, but it surely is: any guitarist certainly knows surf when they hear it. And now, 50 years old, it arguably boasts as much virtuosity, style, unique technique and humour as any form of guitar music. From the US to Finland to Japan, surf still has a huge fanbase, and new bands are breaking all the time.

The king of surf guitar is Dick Dale. An early ‘renaissance man’ of rock’n’roll, 73-year-old Dale has been a guitar hero, an actor, an equipment consultant, an innovator and a bigmouth on a par with Ted Nugent. Dale has jammed with everyone from Elvis to U2’s Bono, and plays not only a mean guitar but also the piano, drums and trumpet. Just as impressively, he once kept his ‘pet’ tiger in his house.

Let’s Go Trippin’ by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones (1961) is widely regarded as the first true ‘surf’ single (though the Belairs’ Mr Moto lays a good claim). Let’s Go Trippin’ was followed by 1962’s uberclassic Misirlou. In ’61, Dale’s ripping act was packing in surfing-mad audiences in Orange County’s Rendezvous Ballroom. His rapid tremolo picking and Arabianinfluenced melodies not only honed the surf style; he was also a sonic explorer. An early friend of, and consultant to, guitar and amp manufacturer Leo Fender, Dick wanted a huge sound… and, according to Dale, Leo obliged.

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About Vintage Rock

Vintage Rock: Winter issue 2011 features: 50 Greatest Rockabilly tracks - Prepare yourself for the greatest party tape in history with our essential cuts. The Roots of Rock’n’Roll - The definitive lowdown on how it all began The stars - Fantastic features on Elvis, Hank Marvin, Jet Harris, Carl Perkins, Ike Turner and many more Rockabilly Hair - Tope stylist Mr Ducktail tells all, ably assisted by Levi and Bernie Dexter All Mama’s Children - News, reviews and events for the incorrigibly beat-minded