By: Jonny Whiteside
Courtesy of the artist Dick Dale
Dick Dale is a rock & roll colossus. Inarguably one of the most significant and influential electric guitarists of the 20th century, Dale is a force whose broad-shouldered shadow falls across rock & roll as far and wide as Charlie Christian's silhouette dominates jazz. The 78-year-old lefty innovator's upside-down guitar had more presence and personality than anyone had ever managed to unleash, and his recordings of "Let's Go Trippin'" and "Miserlou" provided a radical redefinition of the instrument profound in its reach and implications.
Dale's big-toned, destructo ax arrived at an evolutionary point when rock & roll guitar was still wedded to a watered-down blend of wannabe primitive blues and honky-tonk soloing (e.g. Link Wray, Duane Eddy). His style completely exploded the genre's prevailing standards and practices. It was electric guitar run amok, a hammering, savage amalgam of personal atavism (his manifest desire to aurally recreate the physical sensation of surfing), his fixation on the percussive rapture of Gene Krupa's drumming, and the impact of an exotic mutt musical background bestowed by his Lebanese father and Polish mother. All of these combined like nitroglycerin, and while the British Invasion quickly drove Dale into commercial stalemate, nothing could diminish his influence.