Dick Dale the Grandaddy of Shred Talks Gear, Guitars, and Setting Speakers on Fire
Last week, Crossfade got so stoked about Dick Dale's Sunday night surf rock party at the Vagabond that we restrung our Strats, waxed our boards, and called the King's cell to talk "Hank Williams, big waves, ukeleles, lions, tigers, leopards, Latino tunes, and how to make people's ears bleed."
Tonight, it's finally time to let loose and hang with the Grandaddy of Shred. In fact, we can already hear the blowouts, wipeouts, and animal screams. But before gathering our longo bros and heading out to NE 14th Street, we wanted to shoot the shit with Mr. Dale for a few extra minutes.
See the cut for the second part of Crossfade's interview with the King of the Surf Guitar.
Crossfade: How does Dick Dale get that big, fat sound?
Dick Dale: With the output transformers that Leo Fender and I built together, and the 15-inch D130 speakers. In those days, they didn't have that kind of stuff. And these amplifiers were created specifically to handle what I was doing after I blew up 50 amps and caught speakers on fire.
You know, that's what happens when you deliver amperage greater than the speaker can hold ... It heats up the wire, the wire ignites the comb, and you're gonna get a speaker in flames! I mean, I smoked the speakers in London at the Royal Albert Hall and my bass player was like, "Dale! Dale! There's smoke!" And all I could say was, "Shut up and keep playing!"
Back then, the transformers were 10, 12, and 15 watts. And to handle my power, Leo designed an 85-watt output transformer peaking at 100 watts. It was like going from a VW to a Testerossa.
Do you still use those customized speakers at shows?
Well, when I wanted to put in two speakers, then Leo made a 100-watt transformer peaking at 180 watts. That's what I perform through today. And these things were all put on the market for human consumption. But now they've been bought up by collectors from all over the world. So if you want to get just a transformer in hand, you're gonna have to spend 3000 bucks!
Are there any recent Dick Dale innovations in the world of gear?
My son, Jimmy, and I created two new acoustic guitars with only a three-inch deep body, all mahogany inside, top-side, and bottom. Basically, we're saving trees. We're saving lumber. You only have to cut down one tree, whereas they normally use two different trees to make acoustic-electric guitars.
I put in a pickup, a tuner, and it's only three inches deep so your arm can just drop down and strum it all day long! With a regular acoustic that has a six- to eight-inch body, you'll get a Charley horse in your back within 20 minutes. And the older you get, the quicker the Charley horse comes.
I've been screaming about this guitar for 20 years. And finally, Fender did it and they've been selling right off the shelves. Mine is a Dick Dale Signature Malibu and Jimmy's is a Jimmy Dale Signature Kingman.
These axes sound like special machines.
We put a Stratocaster neck on it too. All the technicians said it couldn't be done because of the depth of the guitar. And I just said, "See! The world is no longer flat."
They also couldn't believe the volume of sound created by using the same wood, top-side and bottom. It's a matter of molecules ... The molecules change when you use a different wood, so you're interrupting the color of the sound. And no one realizes that.
We broke the sound barrier back in the '50s with output transformers and speakers. And now we're smashing the barrier again with these new acoustic guitars.
Dick Dale with Laramie Dean. 8 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at the Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $20 plus fees via vagabond.wantickets.com. Call 305-379-0508 or visit thevagabondmiami.com.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.