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After Dick Dale’s death, we discuss the king of the surf guitar’s legacy in SoCal

A photo of surf guitarist Dick Dale (with guitar) and his band, the Del-Tones.
A photo of surf guitarist Dick Dale (with guitar) and his band, the Del-Tones.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Dick Dale, whose pounding, blaringly loud power-chord instrumentals on songs like “Miserlou” and “Let’s Go Trippin’” earned him the title King of the Surf Guitar, has died at age 81.

His former bassist Sam Bolle says Dick Dale passed away Saturday night. No other details were available.

Dale liked to say it was he and not the Beach Boys who invented surf music — and some critics have said he was right.

An avid surfer, Dale started building a devoted Los Angeles fan base in the late 1950s with repeated appearances at Newport Beach’s old Rendezvous Ballroom. He played “Miserlou,” ″The Wedge,” ″Night Rider” and other compositions at wall-rattling volume on a custom-made Fender Stratocaster guitar. “Miserlou,” which would become his signature song, had been adapted from a Middle Eastern folk tune Dale heard as a child and later transformed into a thundering surf-rock instrumental.

We talk Dick Dale’s legacy and contributions to surf music and SoCal music history.

With files from the Associated Press.


René Engel, producer and host of music program Citybilly, which is currently on hiatus; former KPCC host