One of the guitarists that I have much respect for is Dick Dale. Mr. Dale (or Monsour which is his actual surname) is not just an excellent guitarist and Rock legend and father of surf guitar, but he is also an inventor, animal trainer, a devoted family man and knows more about the business of music than most folks in the industry. I have been fortunate to receive some e-mail communication from him and I can attest to all of this.
Dick Dale started playing Surf Guitar in the 1950’s in Balboa California. He became a local phenomenon. He was a surfer and a guitarist, so it would just make sense to put together the two activities that he loved.
So he took them back to Fender and got a new one which blew up. In fact he blew up almost 50 Fender amplifiers. So Leo sat down with Dick and Freddie Travares to map out an amp that could keep it together. Mr. Travares put together a new amplifier with an 85 watt transformer that would peak at 100 watts.
The Fender Showman amp was born.
But there was still a problem. The speaker would twist in its frame. The solution was to rubberize the front edge of the speaker to allow it to pulsate in the frame.
The new and much louder amplifier was called The Fender Dual Showman.
Dale had another part in Fender history. He didn’t think he had enough vibrato and sustain in his voice and wanted to find a way to enhance it. Dale got the Hammond Reverb unit out of an organ and took it to Leo Fender. Together they came up with the stand alone Fender Reverb Tank.
We’ve concentrated on Dale’s amplifier, which became the standard for most professional American rock acts for many years during the 1960’s, but we haven’t talked about his guitar.
Originally the left handed Dale would take a right handed Stratocaster and flip it upside down and play without reversing the strings. The thinnest E string would be at the top of the neck and the thick E would be at the bottom. This was advantages to his unbelievably rapid up/down picking style. Fender designed a left handed guitar for him and painted it gold chartreuse sparkle.
Dale had a “surf switch” added to the middle of the pickguard. This switch turned the neck and bridge pickups on. So Dale could have the following combinations of pickups on while playing. He could have the 3 pickups individually, the neck and middle together at once. He also eliminated the tone control circuit.
Fender still has this guitar in its custom catalogue, although the model offered has the headstock is upside down.
At 73 years of age and despite a setback from rectal cancer, Dale still travels the world with his son Jimmy Dale playing the songs he made so famous. May God continue to bless him.