Dick Dale, whose jangly, reverb-heavy surf guitar style was the soundtrack on numerous film and TV productions, died on Saturday. No cause was given, but Dale had been in ill health for a number of years, even as he kept up a crowded touring schedule.
Dale’s music was a featured attraction in such films as Pulp Fiction, Escape From L.A., Space Jam, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Garfield 2, among many others. He was equally prolific in TV music, and even had a few acting stints, including an uncredited role in Elvis Presley’s Let’s Make Love in 1960.
But it was as a musician that Dale made an indelible mark. His versions of “Pipeline” and “Misirlou“ (the theme from Pulp Fiction) are considered rock ‘n roll classics, and Dale branded the unique surf sound on several generations of fans. He continued to tour despite a host of health problems, claiming he had to support massive medical bill costs.
Dale was born in Boston as Richard Anthony Monsour and was raised in Massachusetts until high school, when his father took a job in Southern California and relocated the family across the country, to settle in El Segundo.
Hailed as the “King of Surf Guitar,” Dale was part of the beach music scene centered in Southern California’s 1960s. An avid surfer, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones appeared in several of the “Beach Party” teen flicks starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
Dale also claimed to be the guinea pig for development of the Fender Stratocaster, one of the great American guitars. “Everything that came out of Leo Fender’s head, I was his test pilot,” Dale said in a 2011 interview. “He used to say: ‘When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for the human consumption.’ So I blew up over 50 amplifiers. And that’s why they call me the Father of Heavy Metal.”
Although interest in his music waned in the 1970s, the musician enjoyed something of a renaissance in the 1990s with his Pulp Fiction contribution, and gradually became recognized for helping to popularize a distinct musical genre.
Dale was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame in 1996 and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by L.A. Weekly in 2000 for his contribution to music.
Dale is survived by his wife, Lana, and his son, James.
No immediate information was available on a memorial service.