The guitarist Dick Dale, the pioneer of surf rock known for his 1962 hit Misirlou, has died age 81. He died on Saturday night, Dale’s live bassist, Sam Bolle, confirmed to the Guardian. Born Richard Anthony Monsour in May 1937, Dale developed his distinctive sound by adding to instrumental rock influences from his Middle Eastern heritage, along with a “wet” reverb sound and his rapid alternative picking style.
In 2011, he told the Miami New Times that the hectic drumming of Gene Krupa, along with the “screams” of wild animals and the sound and sensation of being in the ocean inspired his sound. His fifth single, 1961’s Let’s Go Trippin’, is considered the first surf rock instrumental and has been credited with launching the early 1960s craze. The Beach Boys’ “vocal” surf pioneered the sound’s second wave. Dale once claimed that Frank Sinatra had offered to manage him, but he turned him down because the singer wanted a 90% cut of his earnings.
At the turn of the 60s, Dale was pivotal in the development of the Fender Stratocaster guitar. On the track Misirlou, Dale transformed the traditional Greek folk song into a sped-up, one-string performance, which became a national sensation after Dale performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1962. In 1994, Quentin Tarantino used it as the opening music for Pulp Fiction. After retiring from music in the 1970s, Dale returned to playing in the 80s. In 1995, he found a new patron in John Peel, who discovered the guitarist playing at the Garage in London.