Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Dick Dale and his Del-Tones - King Of The Surf Guitardotdotdotdot
artworkLots of great surf here from Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, all cut in the sixties.
Picks: Miserlou, King Of The Surf Guitar, Let's Go Trippin', Surf Beat, Summer Surf, Shake-N-Stomp, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, Hava Nagila, The Wedge, Surfing Drums, Spanish Kiss, Banzai Washout, Jungle Fever, A Run For Life, Death Of A Gremmie, Surfin' Rebel, Break Time

Track by Track Review


Miserlou dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The introductory note of Miserlou is somehow bigger than life. Dick's machine gun staccato is perfect. This is Dick Dale's biggest Del-tone singles, the incredibly archetypal "Miserlou" featured so prominently in Pulp Fiction. No comprehensive Surf collection should even be conceived without this song. This IS the sound of primal surf, the source of the idea of really LOUD guitar leads. It's reported that the arrangement was developed after Dick saw Johnny Barakat do it this way.

King Of The Surf Guitar dotdotdot
Surf (Vocal)

The King has the Blossoms sing about him while he plays gorgeous notes on his guitar. An ego feed and anthem, and a lot better than the 1975 GNP version, but still... sure do love that guitar!

Let's Go Trippin' dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Dick Dale's August 1961 recording of "Let's Go Trippin'" is ahead of the surf sound, more a rock 'n' roll number than what would be later identified as surf. It is nevertheless a very important key to the development of the genre.

Dick's original Del-tones were a hell of a band. This session featured a seasoned Barry Rillera on sax, who had been in his brother Ricky Rillera's band the Rhythm Rockers (no relation to the surfband of that name), with whom Richard Berry had sung for over a year at Harmony Park between 1954 and 1955. It was at Harmony Park one Saturday night in 1955 that Richard heard them do Rene Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha" for the first time, and was inspired by it's "duh duh duh, duh-duh" intro to write "Louie Louie."

Surf Beat dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Demonstrating the power of CHUNK in surf, "Surf Beat" lent it's name to the genre, and clearly is a standard. A great performance captured live at the Rendezvous Ballroom and issued in 1962. This is the embodiment of rhythm based surf chunk.

If you want to play the chords right, when the lead and rhythm both play together, the rhythm guitar would "push" the chord downward, while the lead must "pull" the chord upward - remember, Dick Dale played left handed and used a right handed guitar upside down without restringing. That meant when he pushed the chord, it was the same as pulling it. I verified this with Dick personally in '88, so there ya go.

Summer Surf dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A light and frothy Dick Dale number with a melodic and infectious sound. It's very nice, as opposed to powerful. Good track.

Shake-N-Stomp dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This Del-tone session is an early double picked track, before "Miserlou" as a single, but from the same period live. This track is often assumed to have been recorded at the Rendezvous, but reportedly was recorded at a small studio. Good grindage.

(Ghost) Riders In The Sky dotdotdotdot
Cowpoke Surf (Instrumental)

Dick Dale does the Stan Jones classic with his usual guitar style. It's a pretty darn cool track. The double picking adds to the tune immensely.

Hava Nagila dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Following up "Miserlou" (and the B-side of "King Of The Surf Guitar") most naturally meant another traditional Middle Eastern song, and who could have imagined that this song could have been so powerful at the hands of Dick Dale! A must have track!

The Wedge dotdotdotdotdot
Not (Instrumental)

Hal Blaine's shredding machine gun drums add immeasurably to this rerecording of Dick's Del-tone single "A Run For Life," which Dick thankfully deleted the trumpet from. Thee most killer of all Dick's post-"Miserlou" tracks.

"The Wedge" was derived from a song called "The Rising Surf" written by Al Hazan and originally cut as a demo by the Tandems months before Dick went into the studio. "The Rising Surf" was based on a 1952 composition of Hazan's called "Dance Of Love," which was released by the Bell Sisters.

Tidal Wave dotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

More studio construction without much real interest.

Surfing Drums dotdotdotdot
R&B Surf (Vocal)

This mostly instrumental track is from the Surfers Choice LP on Del-tone (later reissued on Capitol as part of their deal with Dick). It was recorded live at the Rendezvous Ballroom in '62, and is actually a cover of Bo Diddley's "Hush Your Mouth," lyrics and all. It's a great glimpse into those long lost times in Balboa when Dick was King and the big Surf sound was just dawning. A great track. It's too bad that it fades out during the drum solo, but I suspect it segues into some other tune. Dick also recorded a version as a single called "Jungle Fever" with voiced monkey calls, as well as performed it live in the early nineties as "Jungle Bunnies" with the same voiced calls.

Spanish Kiss dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Spanish Kiss" is a splendid flamenco inspired number played on an acoustic guitar, full of pomp and drama, and the chorus is not too distracting. A totally wonderful side trip in the Disk Dale songbook. He has since called this "F-16" and "Speardance."

Banzai Washout dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A really unusual sound for Dick as he mimics with increase bell-like tone the super and obscure Catalinas track written by mister studio sax player Steve Douglas, who played on most of Duane Eddy's tracks, as well as the Challengers and others. It's a great flying raging surf monster played in the mid registers with stellar guitar tones. Most unique. This track comes from Dick's last studio album of the sixties "Summer Surf."

Jungle Fever dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Jungle Fever" is the single studio version of "Surfing Drums." It is actually a cover of Bo Diddley's "Hush Your Mouth." It's a great glimpse into those long lost times in Balboa when Dick Dale was King and the big Surf sound was just dawning. It's too bad that it fades out during the drum solo, but I suspect it segues into some other tune. Dick performed it live in the early nineties as "Jungle Bunnies" with the same voiced calls.

A Run For Life dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

The early Del-tone single version of the song that became "The Wedge," with the Del-tones as the band, and with Dick playing trumpet leads. It's way hokey at times, and gives you a clear glimpse at the difference between the history and sound surf music as you know it and the "world according to Dick Dale."

Death Of A Gremmie dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Recorded at the Rendezvous Ballroom and from the Surfers Choice album, this ranks as one of the best early pre surf ominous R&B instros, piano oriented, and very sad. Bitchin'!

Surfin' Rebel dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

While the beat is tame, and the backtrack basic rock pedestrian, the melody is superb, and the dribbling glissandos just fine. All in all, a fine surf instro.

Break Time dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

While this is a standard R&B set ender to talk over or use like bumper music in radio, it is a really nice track. It has character and flows quite nicely. The sound of reverb guitar and the surf to be, coupled with Dick's pre-surf R&B and rock 'n' roll standards gigs at the Rinky Dink meld nicely in this simple and pleasing track.