|King of the Surf Guitar|
I am of an age where I can recall Surf Guitar being played on the radio. I am not certain how players learn songs anymore, but I grew up listening to The Ventures, The Surfaris and Dick Dale. I learned to play guitar by listening to those songs over and over until I could duplicate them.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
|Misilou 45 RPM|
|The Fender Discussion Page|
In the late 1990’s, when I first got on the internet I used to visit The Fender Forum aka The Fender Discussion Page. Early on this site was not just a discussion page for fans of Fender guitars, but also received visits and comments from Fender employees, including Bill Schultz, the CEO at the time.
|Fender Facts Newsletter|
Fender had a newsletter back then and one issue featured an interview with Dick Dale. We thought it humorous that Dick Dale spoke in the third person throughout the interview and we poked fun of that.
|Dick Dale with his cats|
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones|
Indeed there are a number of Fender innovations that although Dale did not create, he was the impetus and drive behind them. For instance, most amplifiers in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were putting out 12 to 15 watts. There were a handful, including the Fender Bassman that pumped out 40 watts RMS.
|With the Del-Tones|
When Dick Dale first started playing music, he says he was in a 17 piece band, with horns and a drummer. He was playing Big Band Music and the guitar could not be heard.
|Town Hall Party cast in the 1950's|
Later he attempted to be a Country singer for a while and even got a gig on a popular west coast TV show called Town Hall Party where he played with a number of famous Country Music stars.
Then Rock and Roll came along and the band became a combo, but the still the guitar was pretty much a background rhythm instrument.
When guitar based Surf Music hit the scene around 1962 he needed to do something. Leo Fender was a generous man and provided amplifiers and guitars to California musicians as a form of not just advertising but to see what worked well and what needed improvement.
|Leo Fender in the 1950's|
Here was a guy playing his guitar upside-down and backwards, meaning the 6th string was on the top and the 1st string was on the bottom. So Leo Fender made a left-handed Stratocaster for him.
|Late 1950's Fender Pro - 18 to 25 watts|
|Dale's Original Showman Prototype|
|Vintage 15" JBL Lansing D130F|
|15" JBL Lansing D130F speakers|
|Early 1960's Fender Dual Showman|
The speakers were housed in a separate cabinet than the amplifier. This cabinet had what Fender called a "tone ring" that encircled the edge of the speaker and let more of the natural bass sounds come through.
The output transformer that Mr. Fender created emphasized the lows, mids and high sounds, something that had not been accomplished until then. The 100 watt amp and the cabinet were dubbed The Showman Amp.
The next step that Dale suggested was to place two of these speakers in a cabinet. The Showman Amp was born. When twin 8 ohm 15” JBL Lansing speakers were added to the cabinet to run in series it came to be known as The Dual Showman. Leo Fender had to upgrade the transformer to accommodate the 4 ohm load.
The version that Dick Dale uses is the one with cream coloured Tolex. Later the amp was rated at 100 watts and peaked at 180 watts. When the black Tolex models came out they were once again rated at 85 watts.
Dick Dale never set the amplifier on top of the speaker cabinet, since his intense style of playing guitar causes too much vibration in the speakers which can affect the tubes in the amplifier.
|Fender Reverb Unit & Controls|
By 1961, only a handful of amplifier manufacturers had installed reverberation units in combo amps, most notably Ampeg, with their Reverb Rocket. Though none of these amplifiers had been rated at 100 watts up until now.
Dick Dale state he took apart his Hammond organ and discovered the reverb unit had 9 springs, which the signal traveled through. He took this to Leo, who made a chassis with a small amplifier that contained a 6K6 power tube, a 7025 and a 12AX7, which are both preamp tubes. Dale plugged a mic into this and loved the sound.
|Inside the Reverb Unit|
Getting back to the Dick Dale guitar. Even early photos show that Dale stripped that guitar down to the bare essentials. He took out all the parts that he did not need on that guitar.
|Dick Dale with his original Fender Stratocaster|
|Dick Dale Stratocaster|
One would think that a Surf player would utilize the vibrato, but not Dick Dale. Though his guitar still has 5 springs on the back side holding the vibrato block (5 springs were standard on original Stratocasters) there is a wooden block wedged between the block and the guitars routed area to keep the block from moving.
Dick Dale’s Fender Stratocaster is a mid 1950’s model, which is odd as it has a rosewood slab fretboard. The body is finished in sparkle gold paint
|Dick Dale's Stratocaster|
|Late 1960's Fender Rhodes electric piano|
Around 1959 Leo Fender was interesting in adding a piano to his company’s inventory. He struck a deal with Harold Rhodes, who was a musician and inventor.
Rhodes had come up with a piano-type instrument that employed tuned metal bars called tines being struck by a hammer instead the usual piano action of a hammer striking of strings. The sound was then amplified. This instrument eventually came to be known as the Fender Rhodes piano.
By now Leo Fender considered Dick Dale to be not just a guitarist, but the ultimate test machine. If he could give Dale a piece of equipment and let him use it in concerts, then Fender could see if it was worthy. Apparently, the Fender Rhodes Piano passed the test and though it never became a substitute for an acoustic piano, it became a studio and concert mainstay.
|Fender Contempo Organ|
A company called Pratt Read, was manufacturing parts for the Fender Rhodes piano and was asked by Fender if they could put together a combo organ.
|Dick Dale's Prototype Contempo organ|
The Fender Contempo was one of the sturdier of the portable organs of that era. This was another product that Fender gave to Dick Dale to test for road-worthiness.
|Dick Dale Acoustic|
|Jimmy Dale Acoustic|
Since Dick's son, Jimmy, often travels with him and is a part of his act playing guitar and drums, Fender also built a Jimmy Dale Kingman SCE model. This guitar is a full sized with an all mahogany body. The set-in maple Stratocaster-style neck without the reverse headstock. Both guitars are no longer offered.
|Dick Dale and the Del-Tones from Beach Party|
|Dick Dale in the movie Muscle Beach|
This is the guitar that he is still using today.
|Dick Dale in recent years|
|Dick Dale at 78 - same equipment|
Like I said before, I really admire Dick Dale. Dick is a viable part of the history of the electric guitar and all the equipment that changed the face of rock music and he deserves recognition.
Click on the links beneath the pictures to see the source and click on the links in the text for more information.
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