poster from Guitar World or one of those mags, signed by Dick Dale @ The Backstage in Ballard (Seattle), circa 1994

text on poster:


“I’ve only had the one guitar all my life,“ says Dick Dale of this battle-worn left-handed Strat, nicknamed “The Beast”. The guitar has served the self-proclaimed “King of Surf Guitar” faithfully on every track he has ever cut, from his debut single, “Let’s Go Trippin’,” to his latest album, Unknown Territory. And even if this guitar hasn’t fallen out of a plane on takeoff or been run over by a car, as Dale claims, it is a survivor; most axes would’ve been reduced to kindling by 34 years of daily use and abuse.

According to Tom English of the Fender Custom shop, who went over this guitar with a fine-toothed comb while he was designing the new Dick Dale Signature Series Stratocaster, “The Beast” was built in 1960. The original electronics have long since been modified to suit Dale’s needs: an extra switch instantly engages the neck/middle pickup combination, regardless of what the five-way switch is set to, and all of the pots, except for one volume control, have been removed. Dale strings the guitar upside down with super-heavy bridge-cable-like .014-.060’s.

Although the guitar used to be sunburst, Dale claims to have refinished it at least nine times in order to foil would-be copy-alikes, who in the guitarist’s early-Sixties heyday, would paint their guitars to look just like his. “I used to go in and have it painted every week just to be cute,” he grins. “Finally, my buddy, who used to paint cars, painted it the first metal-gold-flake.” Dale affixed two stickers atop this last coat of paint; an American flag on the top horn, and a Kempo Karate emblem, which he received from his martial-arts instructor, whom Dale alleges was also Elvis Presley’s bodyguard.




This is one of my most popular posts. I would infer that it’s the humility, energetic music and performances of Dick Dale that make him so enduringly well loved; as well as being an inspiration to many guitarists.

A reader wrote, “To back up a little bit, Dale was known as Richard Monsour when he was growing up in Quincy, Mass., and playing trumpet in the Quincy High band. Originally a drummer, Dale had first wanted to be the next Gene Krupa. His guitar work has always had a raw, percussive quality, and like his dad, Jimmy Dale, plays both drums and guitar.”

This really makes sense.
I don’t totally understand the use of guitar as a percussion instrument, although one day in the park I heard someone playing and it was very obvious. The piano is considered a percussion instrument, too; though, it is of course, so much more. I guess it’s just one of the many mysteries of music and the arts that makes life interesting.


Wikipedia article on Dick Dale


Guitarist Dick Dale performing at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 28, 2005. A really excellent photo, by Mike Burns

Transcribing the text on the poster got me thinking about my first electric guitar. Here in the photo you see my friend Kevin Travis from high school with my Fender Musicmaster guitar. He painted it in an American flag motif for me. Good job, huh? He’s standing in front of his 1940 LaSalle. I think it’s a cool picture; very iconic of the times.  From October 1971. Photo courtesy Kevin Travis

Other autographs:

Jimmy Dale Gilmore, also from The Backstage in the ’90’s

paperback book cover signed by Hot Tuna touring band at The Backstage circa 1996: Jorma Kaukonen (JK), Jack Casady, Pete Sears, Michael Falzarano and unknown (drummer).

I can still vividly see Jack Casady signing that in purple felt-tip pen, so fluid and artistic; what a hero of the bass, anyway! Jorma – gracious humility with fans.