Dale was a teenage guitar ace in the mid-’50s when he moved with his family from Boston to a Southern California beach town, where he began surfing. He loved Duane Eddy’s thick echo-chambered guitar sound and the murderous chord progressions on Link Wray’s “Rumble.” But he also loved Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, and the Middle Eastern traditionals that his Lebanese-born father played. In the summer of 1961, Dale and his new backup band, the Del-Tones, played their first show at the Rendezvous Ballroom—a cavernous down-at-heels nightclub eight miles south of Huntington Pier. In better days, the Rendezvous had swung to the music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Stan Kenton. But rock and roll, as far as city officials were concerned, was a public nuisance; two years earlier they’d shut the Rendezvous down altogether. Before Dale and the band could play there, Dale’s father had to convince the club’s new owners, then city permit officials, that his son was going to put on a “musical review,” not a rock and roll concert, and that they’d enforce a dress code for all who attended.
Dale got a handful of his surfing buddies to show up at the Rendezvous, and handed out cheap ties from a cardboard box to anyone who came without the requisite neckwear. For the opening 15 minutes of his show, Dale played songs like “Begin the Beguine,” while his friends dutifully sat and watched. Then he shifted gears and did two or three country numbers, then some R&B covers, and finally launched into some rock—which got everybody on their feet, clapping and cheering.
Then there was vocal music, popularized by groups like The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. The groups climbed higher on the American pop charts than their instrumentalist contemporaries ever did, but their success was viewed with contempt by many in surfing’s inner circle. More from Warshaw:
More than anything, surfers’ disregard for the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean came down to authenticity—or lack thereof. “I was riding in a car with a friend when we first heard ‘Surfer Girl,'” Los Angeles surfer and 1964 world championship finalist Mike Doyle once recalled. “It was this whiny, cornball music, and we stated hissing and hooting, saying ‘What a rip-off!’ Years later I realized how good the Beach Boys’ songs actually are. But at the time, it was like they were pretending they’d made it down the stairs at Malibu and were part of the crew—except they couldn’t even surf, and everyone knew it.”
We asked Warshaw to give his highest falsetto on Dick Dale, the Beach Boys, and the union between surf and music.
Let’s start with a question for the present: how has the role of surf music changed since the boom period of the ’60s? Does surf music shape surf culture?
“Surf music” is a dumb name, really. Or not dumb, sorry, that’s the wrong word. It’s just a placeholder. Apart from a few songs where the lyrics that are actually about surfing, the rest of it…I’m with Dick Dale here, it’s just “music.” It’s good or bad, fast or slow, heavy or soft. The best of that fantastic instrumental stuff that we call “surf music” is really just good, tough, stripped-down rock and and roll. “Misirlou” doesn’t make me think of surfing as much as it does a high-speed car chase on mushrooms.
But to answer your question, surf music doesn’t shape surf culture today, and I don’t actually think it shaped it even back when Dick was melting plaster off the walls of the Rendezvous Ballroom. Surfing maybe shaped the music, a little, but not the other way around. Surfers in the ’60s listened to all kinds of stuff, like surfers do today. If I were going to name a single group who shaped surf culture, maybe just a tiny bit, it would be Santana, in the early and mid-’70s. I think Bobby Owens once said that he always tried to surf the way Carlos Santana played guitar.
What was Dick Dale like as a performer?
Not at all surfy. Greased back, kinda Jersey Boy-looking, hard-ass but for sure, a sense of humor. Here, see for yourself!
I’ll be honest, for me, a lot of this kind of music all sounds the same. Same chords, same bouncy tone. What did Dale bring that was so different?…
Continued via… Source: The history of surf music: destroying amps in five-part harmony