Long live the King: Down the Shore with the late Dick Dale, surf guitar great

Dick Dale at the Surf Club in Ortley Beach. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dick Dale at the Surf Club in Ortley Beach. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Dick Dale, the king of surf guitar, has shuffled off his Stratocaster single-coils and is playing Misirlou someplace where the waves always break just right.

Dale died last weekend at 81. He probably will be remembered most for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

I will remember him for a July evening in 2012, in Ortley Beach at the Surf Club.

Both had seen better days. (Weeks later, the club was pummeled by Superstorm Sandy; sadly, it’s gone now, too.)

Yet at 75, Dale still packed a wallop with The Beast, as he called his battered gold Strat.  He played his lefty instrument upside-down, like Jimi Hendrix. But Dale’s axe also was strung upside-down, with the bass strings at the bottom, instead of the top.

Dale did not say much on that balmy night. He was big and gruff and seemed kind of ornery, like an icon should be. An electric fan blew his wispy white pony tail as if he were catching the breeze at Malibu, scanning the horizon for his next hit single.

He let The Beast do the talking…and it spoke LOUDLY.

Articles about Dale say grievous health problems forced him to keep touring, to pay his medical bills. If that’s true, it’s terrible. But I am grateful for the chance, with my pals Alan and Larry, to hear him bash out rapid-fire riffs hinting of Middle Eastern mystery, drenched in the “wet” reverb sound he pioneered.

Born in Boston to parents of Lebanese and Polish descent, Richard Monsour grew up playing everything from trumpet to the tarabaki.  He idolized drummer Gene Krupa and country legend Hank Williams — who inspired him to try ukulele.

If only Dale had stuck with it.

The Beast would be Mighty Mouse, and we’d be mourning The King of Surfer Uke.

R.I.P: Dick Dale in Ortley Beach, July 2012:

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