In Memory of Richard Anthony Monsour
Before the term diversity became the politically correct lingua franca for defining multiculturalism Baby Boomers were taught during our school days that America was the melting pot of races, nationalities, and ethnicities, and that the greatness of the American dream would be achieved through this synthesis and jelling of our consummately unique character and abilities that would forge a true “American Manifest Identity”. It was also a time of contradiction, as the image of the typical All-American boy was blond, blue-eyed, and surfing on the west coast to the music we have come to know as surf music. What most Americans are unaware of is that the all-American surf sound with its driving guitar lines fueled with high amp reverb was created by Richard Anthony Mansour (May 4, 1937- March 16- 2019), born in Boston, Massachusetts, of Lebanese decent. He was taught how to play the oud, a Middle Eastern stringed instrument, the precursor to the modern guitar, by his uncle. He retained his strong interest in Arabic music, and learned to surf, when the family moved to California when he was in his teen years. His ethnic and change in domicile later played a major role in his creating surf rock. While playing in local country bars, he was given the nom de plume, “Dick Dale” by Texas Tiny.
Dick Dale was a truly gifted guitarist who played the guitar left-handed, using a right-handed guitar without restringing the guitar, quite orthodox, playing the guitar upside down. Dale also employed non-western scales in his songs, reverb, heavy gauge strings, and cranking his amp to the limits. He is also credited with being the “Father of Heavy Metal.” Leo Fender the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, and manufacturer of amps partnered with Dale to test his equipment, who quipped; “When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale then it is fit for human consumption.” This partnership led to the creation of the Fender Showman Amp; this behemoth was complete with two-15” speakers, united with Leo Fender’s Stratocaster guitar which allowed Dale to attain significantly louder volume levels unobtainable by the conventional equipment of its day.
Dick’s signature song, Misirlou, was originally recorded in 1962, and it gained a new audience in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. Dick Dale’s Discography is as impressive as it is long, though it pales in comparison to the list of guitarists and musicians he influenced; The Beach Boys for one. Dick also performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. His band, Dale and the Del-Tones’ songs can be heard on the 1963 movie Beach Party, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, and in the 1964 film Muscle Beach Party
In 2009 Dale was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and was also inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California, in 2011. Dale, who just recently passed away while on tour, claimed he was forced to keep touring at the age of 81 because of his inability to afford his medical bills for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
We can now reflect on how the music of foreign lands is united in the international surf that has breached our shores and has created a truly unique All- American sound. For all you music aficionados, especially guitarists, I encourage you to acquaint yourselves to Dale’s body of work, or revisit it to gain a better appreciation of his acumen on guitar. For the non-musicians and axmen, Dale’s music offers some rather nostalgic memories of our musical and cultural past. But, as all musicians know, it’s not the mortal death we fear so much; as the death of our name mentioned for the last time. So let us keep Dale’s name alive with just a click and a down-load of his music. We owe it to Dale and ourselves. May you rest in peace. Thank you Dale.
Dr. Richard Cirulli is a retired Professor, columnist, playwright, author, songwriter, and author of “The Songs of Roland”. You can view his website at Demitasseplayers.com .He looks forward to your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the March 29, 2019th discussion engaged by Richard Cirulli, PH.D.´ and Yonkers Tribune Editor-at-Large and radio Host Hezi Aris “On Demand” via the Internet … http://tobtr.com/s/11248867