by Corky Carroll
By now I am sure most, if not all, of you have learned of the passing of the legendary surf guitarist, Dick Dale. He left us on March 15 after many years of poor health and fighting cancer a number of times. The guy is a huge part of surfing, music and Orange County history and was a pal of mine since the early 1960’s. So, I thought today I would stroll through some of my “DD” memories, as ancient as they may be, and give some thought to how his life crossed with mine and his effect on our culture.
I first became aware of Dick Dale when he was the headliner at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa back in the early 1960’s. I was just going into High School at Huntington Beach and becoming more and more aware of my growing attraction to chicks. (OK, I realize that in this weird day and age you can’t use certain terms to describe people, so I have no idea if “chicks” is an acceptable term or not, but I still call girls “chicks” and to me it is a positive term, so I am gonna use it.) The big thing at the time was “Surfer Stomps.” These were dances where people would do the “Stomp,” which was a dance that pretty much was just a whole lot of stomping to the beat and not a lot of much else. It was in the early age of instrumental surf music. There was a place in Huntington Beach called Memorial Hall where they held these Stomps every Friday or Saturday night and a few other places around the county. But the main place was the Rendezvous and the big daddy of that music was Dick Dale, he was the King of the Surf Guitar and always has been through the years.
Dick surfed too. We met one night when I was at the Rendezvous and became pals. During his breaks he liked to hang out with the surfers who were in the crowd. I found that a lot of the hot chicks would swoop around Dick and that when he would go back on stage there was ample opportunity to latch onto one of those and this would occasionally lead to a moonlight stroll on the beach and maybe more. I spent many fun nights stomping and strolling to the sounds of Dick Dale.
In later years he opened a second Rendezvous, over in I think it was Garden Grove, and I went to see him one night. I was in the early years of my music career then and he asked if I wanted to “sit in” with him. As my guitar playing at that time consisted mostly of strumming or finger picking chords as backing to my vocals I politely declined. Or, as is more the case, I chickened out. At that stage of my career I had no business on the same stage with Dick Dale with a guitar in my hand.
He always said he wasn’t a guitar player, that he was a “sound sculptor.” I beg to differ; the dude was both and to the ninth degree. That sound that he produced was amazing. The fact that he and Leo Fender had to develop a special amp just to handle the power and volume that he produced speaks, well, volumes. He was an innovator in much the same way as Jimi Hendrix. I loved the fact that with all that punch to his playing that it was still clear as a bell. The guy truly was the King of the Surf Guitar, nobody did it like Dick Dale.
He moved out to the desert and we kept in touch through emails and a few phone calls over the years. He liked to fly and had his own runway on his property. At one time he talked of flying down to visit at my getaway casa in Mexico and there was also a plan to have him do a cameo appearance on my last album, “Blue Mango.” But schedules never lined up and he was also dealing with his health so neither of those came about, unfortunately. Dick had a ton of “stoke” about him, lots of great stories to tell and he was good at telling them. I liked his company and am a big fan of his music. Sad that he left us, but the legend of Dick Dale will never die. I think about now he is waking up a lot of angels with that machine gun double picking.
CORKY CARROLL firstname.lastname@example.org