Dick Dale: Still Rocking at 75

The stage at the Press Club was clear of the Lava Pups’ equipment leaving four waist-high speaker cabinets, Dusty Watson’s drum kit, Sam Bolle’s pedals, a reverb unit, and a microphone.  The crowd was ready for Dick Dale.

During the break, we took some equipment out to the car.  But the crowd was building and pressing closer to the stage.  I decided to take my standby guitar out through the back exit.  Gig bag in hand I started up the staircase to the back door only to run into Lana Dale on the landing.  At the top of the stairs was the King of the Surf Guitar himself. 

Dick Dale!  He was preparing to make his entrance.  But he had dispatched one of his crew to take care of some technical difficulty with his wireless unit.  He had time for me, “You bring a guitar for me to sign?”  “No, I’m from the opening band and trying to get this out to the car.”  He then talked to me until his crew member looked up the stairs and reported the unit was ready to go.

The King of the Surf Guitar then returned to making his entrance.  Down the stairs.  Into the room.  The crowd parted like the Red Sea.  On to the stage.  Cheers, whistles, and applause welcomed Dick Dale back to Sacramento.

With the support of the best rhythm section there is, he ran through a wide-ranging assortment of songs.  Familiar surf classics like Let’s Go Trippin’, Surf Beat, The Wedge, and Miserlou.  Jazz and rock standards like Comin’ Home, Hideaway, and Rumble.  He sang Bo Diddley and What’d I Say.  The audience joined him in House of the Rising Sun.

His instantly recognizable style was evident throughout the night.  His playing was strong.  Alternate picked on heavy strings.  He played without a set list which required Sam Bolle and Dusty Watson to be on their toes and ready to accompany whatever he played whenever he played it.  Dick Dale explained that this allowed him to tailor each performance to fit his audience.

On this Thanksgiving night, Dick Dale was particularly sharing with his audience.  He has had health issues lately.  Cancer. 
Renal failure.  Chemotherapy.  He is opposed to radiation as cancer treatment.  His doctors will not let him play trumpet any more.  He is upset that American mustangs are slaughtered and eaten as a delicacy in Europe.  He encouraged his audience to talk to their congressional representatives about this.

The audience danced.  The audience applauded.  The audience cheered.  The audience sang along.  The audience listened to what Dick Dale had to say.

His performance ended.  He invited the audience to his merchandise table.  As he sat down there, I thought about what we just had seen.  Dick Dale is a 75-year old cancer survivor who is on the road for 13 shows in 13 different cities in 20 days and whose playing is as strong, vital, and loud as it ever was.

Yes, indeed, Dick Dale is still rocking at 75!

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