Dick Dale and the Asian Influence in Southern California Surf Scene

The “King of the Surf Guitar” died at 81 (16 March 2019) and from his pseudonym you’d suspect he was white European, but Dale whose sound helped formulate the Southern California style was born Richard Anthony Monsour (4 May 1937) in Boston to a Lebanese father and he was well aware of musical Middle Eastern traditions, playing the tarabaki drums locally. He would also play trumpet and ukulele and eventually took up the guitar.

His family moved to El Segundo, California when he was 17 when his father found work at Hughes Aircraft Company as a machinist. He worked at Hughes Aircraft after graduating from Washington Senior High School but was encouraged by his father to continue his music.  A local DJ called Texas Tiny suggested the stage name “Dick Dale ” because he thought it would be a good name for a country musician. At the time Dale’s idol was Hank Williams.

Dale and his father opened up a club called the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, CA with Dale playing what would later be called surf music. Movie buffs will recognize Dale’s aggressive guitar playing from “Miserlou” which Quentin Tarantino would use in the 1994 “Pulp Fiction.”

“Miserlou” is a traditional song from the Mediterranean area with variants in Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Turkish, Indian and Persian cultures.

It was a hit for Jan August in 1946.

Dale and The Del-Tones were already part of movie history by then. They performed songs “My First Love,” “Runnin’ Wild” and “Muscle Beach” in the 1964 film, “Muscle Beach Party.”  They would also performed “Secret Surfing’ Spot” and Surfing’ and Swinging'” in the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello 1963 movie “Beach Party.”

And then there’s also “Peter Gunn.”

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