Dick Dale

Remember the opening scene of Pulp Fiction? Pumpkin and Honey Bunny debate the merits of sticking up coffee shops versus convenience stores before jumping up from the booth with drawn guns. The soundtrack cuts to the opening credits and a mysterio double-picked guitar instrumental. The instrumental is "Misirlou." The guitarist is Dick Dale. It's two and a half minutes of inspired cinema sound.

Dick Dale as Quentin Tarantino's Ennio Morricone. That's a fair comparison, because Morricone sounds like he copied from Dick Dale --especially on the theme to The Big Gundown (1967). Both Morricone and Dale painted big landscapes with their music. Morricone drew the open grasslands and the deserts of the American West. Dale drew the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

Back in the early 1960s Dale used heavy reverberation and staccato double picking to create the prototype surf music sound. Del-Tone original drummer Jack Lake complemented Dale's guitar with a strong beat. Unlike the commercialized vocal surf music of Jan & Dean or the Beach Boys, Dale's wet atmospheric guitar really invokes the swells and pipelines of the surf.

The story goes that Leo Fender gave Dale a Fender Stratocaster along with a Fender amp and told him to beat it to death and tell Fender what he thought of the equipment. Dale blew out the speaker. He then proceeded to blow up 49 Fender amps and speakers by playing so loud the equipment would catch on fire. When asked why he played so loud, Dale replied that he wanted to create the sounds of the native dancers in the jungles along with the roar of the ocean.

Guitar wonks can tell you about the special guitars, strings, amps and tubes Dale uses to produce his ear-splitting shred-metal sound. All you need to know is that Dale is louder, faster and harder than headbangers one-third his age.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Aaron Howard