‘King Of Surf Guitar’ Dick Dale Dies At 81

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Updated March 18, 2019
Guitarist Dick Dale attends the 2010 NAMM Show – Day 1 at the Anaheim Convention Center on January 14, 2010 in Anaheim, California. David Livingston/Getty Images for NAMM/AFP


Dick Dale, the California rocker behind the song “Misirlou” which plays during the opening scene of “Pulp Fiction,” has died at the age of 81.

His death on Saturday was confirmed on Facebook by Dusty Watson, a drummer who once toured with Dale, though the cause of death was not immediately known.

Dubbed the “King of Surf Guitar,” the genre he invented in the 1950s, Dale’s work was influential to a generation of musicians including The Beach Boys, Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.

The keen surfer and musical pioneer described the style in a 1994 interview with the New York Times as “a heavy machine-gun staccato picking style to represent the power of Mother Nature, of our Earth, of our ocean.”

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According to a biography on his website, Dale worked with electric guitar trailblazer Leo Fender to develop amps and speakers that could withstand the thundering volume he played at, breaking through the electronic limitations of the era and earning him the moniker the “Father of Heavy Metal.”

Tributes poured in online, including from Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who tweeted: “I’m sorry to hear about Dick Dale passing. Dick’s guitar playing was a big influence on all of us, and we covered “Misirlou” on our Surfin’ USA album in ’63. Love & Mercy to Dick’s family.”

“RIP Dick Dale – Father of the Surf Guitar. We all owe you. Rock on. Bri,” added Queen guitarist Brian May.

Dale, a Lebanese-American, was born Richard Monsour in 1937 in Boston, and moved to California as a teen. He was still performing until the time of his death, according to reports.