Arts & Culture

'King of Surf Guitar' Dick Dale coming to SLO

Dick Dale, the eccentric King of Surf Guitar, will return to San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, when he is scheduled to perform at SLO Brewing Company.

Known for his blistering double-picking staccato playing – and revitalized by director Quentin Tarantino -- Dale has performed at the downtown club several times.

Born in Boston, Dale and his family moved to Southern California when he was a teenager. There he took up surfing and began playing gigs at local establishments. His fast and loud instrumentals soon became a hit in surfer circles. And as surfing itself became wildly popular in the aftermath of the movie "Gidget, " so too did surf music, Dale's being at the forefront.

Dale — who inspired fellow left-handed guitarist Jimi Hendrix — was known for a fervent style that melted picks and snapped up to three strings per song. Though known largely for instrumentals like "The Wedge" and "Pipeline, " Dale occasionally sang with a raspy, soulful voice.

Dale's experiments with reverb initially were intended to add effects to his voice. But his decision to add reverb to his guitar was a breakthrough. Wanting to push the limits of volume, he also worked with Leo Fender to create bigger, louder amps and signature guitars.

In the '50s and '60s, surfers had an outlaw reputation. But Dale has always advocated a moral life, condemning drugs and alcohol.

"I used to fast for 30 days without taking anything into my body but hot tea, honey and ginseng,“ he told the Tribune in 2006.

"Pulp Fiction, " the hip noir crime flick, brought Dale's music back to the limelight in 1994. Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino, whose writing is often inspired by music, has said that he thinks surf songs sound like spaghetti western music. After hearing "Miserlou" live, Dale said, Tarantino approached him in his dressing room, saying he wanted to build his next movie around it.

Dale’s show will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $27 at the door.

Dale is one of several well-known acts the club is hosting the next couple weeks. Also coming to town are the English Beat (Dec. 1), Taj Mahal (Dec. 6, at the Fremont Theatre), Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks (Dec. 7), the Mother Hips (Dec. 8) and Ozomatli (Dec. 9).

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