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Dick Dale

At 72, Dick Dale continues to set the surf-rock whammy bar high.
At 72, Dick Dale continues to set the surf-rock whammy bar high.

In the big picture of rock and roll guitar players, Dick Dale ranks with giants like Les Paul, Link Wray and Nokie Edwards. One of the prize warhorses in Fender's stable for decades and the first artist to play through a 100-watt amplifier (the Showman amp became a Fender flagship), Dale rode his Stratocaster to fame as one of the originators of surf music. His percussive playing also led him to the forefront of guitar-string technological innovation. Dale released a string of surf albums on Capitol from 1962 to '64 that set the (whammy) bar for surf; his 1961 single "Let's Go Trippin'" is regarded as the first surf-rock song. Music fans too young to remember Dale's pre-British Invasion glory years will no doubt know his famous instrumental track "Miserlou" from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. For all his stylistic and technical innovations, Guitar Player magazine has dubbed Dale "The Father of Heavy Metal." A lifelong health nut and martial-arts practitioner, the 72-year-old Dale has beaten cancer twice and, according to recent reports, still puts on a fiery, energetic show.

 
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