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Surf Guitar King : About 30 years after he launched the sound, Dick Dale is dealing with the sudden rebirth of his pop career.

June 04, 1993|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Steve Appleford writes regularly about music for The Times

Dick Dale can hardly believe his luck these days. It's as if the legendary surf guitarist's life has shifted direc tion, he says, first with the birth of his son 17 months ago, but also with the sudden rebirth of his pop career.

Proof enough is his "Tribal Thunder" album, his first release in at least nine years. He's also just been named by Musician magazine as one of the 100 greatest guitarists in rock 'n' roll history. And the Fender guitar company is offering a special version of its Stratocaster model, mounted with Dale's signature.

The New Rolling Stone Album Guide praises him as "the one, true king of the surf guitar. . . . Everyone else can pack it up and go home."

"Everything has just been exploding," Dale says. "It's incredible what's been going on."

Even back in the early 1960s, when his hits "Let's Go Trippin' " and "The Scavenger" launched the surf sound, Dale never got around to touring Europe or anywhere else overseas.

Amazingly enough, he'd never even made it up to San Francisco until last year, where he credits his unexpected popularity among young fans there for the latest resurgence of his career.

"I've never been so excited about something taking place," he says. "My phone has been ringing off the hook."

Not that his life was uneventful before.

There was a Grammy nomination a few years back for dueling guitars with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan on a remake of "Pipeline."

But he's devoted much of his time since the '60s to practicing the martial arts, flying his airplane, collecting exotic animals and living far from the city in Twentynine Palms.

"The reason I'm up here," he explains by phone, "is because you can mentally concentrate on the beauty of nature without white noise, such as traffic."

His concern for the environment provides the theme for "Tribal Thunder," just released on Hightone Records. The mostly instrumental collection is Dale's biggest creative project in 30 years, he says.

He'll be playing some of that music in an appearance Saturday night at the Palomino in North Hollywood.

"Many, many, many artists say, 'Where is Dick going? Where is he going?' They don't know where I'm going when I play, because sometimes I don't make sense to them. I always come out at the end right on time, right on meter.

"That to me is more important, to take a person on a long ride. I never play a song the same way twice. I take people on a ride of sound and feeling and emotion. That's why I sweat so much on stage."


What: Guitarist Dick Dale, Agent Orange, and Wipeout at the Palomino, 6907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

Hours: 9 p.m. Saturday.

Price: $15.

Call: (818) 764-4010.

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