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THE REALLY BITCHING TALE OF DICK DALE AS TOLD BY THE MAN HIMSELF
(interview by james Porter and Jake Austen)


(From Roctober #8, 1994)

The task of telling the tale Of Dick Dale is Herculean, so luckily for us Mr. Dale, not a shy man, does it here himself. However, if you are unfortunately unfamiliar with the legendary King of the Surf Guitar's work, here's some background: Though his excellent early Capitol LP's, containing the early classics "Let's Go Tripping" and "Miserlou" did not propel him and his Del Tones to a national fame comparable to their West Coast status, the Surf styles he pioneered had a worldwide influence on subsequent Surf, Garage and Punk bands. His mightiest influences however were borne from his technical collaborations with guitar guru Leo Fender. From the sonic power and presence they succeeded in creating sprouted Heavy Metal, Sonic Youth, and a great deal of contemporary guitar Rock. The best part about him, though, is that he's so cool. A surfer, a racer, an archer, a virtual zookeeper, a philosopher, a husband, a father and proprietor of The Dale Sky Ranch, Dick Dale is far from your average Rock and Roller, so not surprisingly, rather than a nostalgia piece, Dale's new LP "Tribal Thunder" (Hightone) is one of the best and most vital of his career. His two 1993 sets at Chicago's Cubby Bear were showcases of some of the most exciting, entertaining, joyous music and showmanship this town has seen in a while. At age 56 with an awesome LP, a lovely wife, a new baby and a rocking soul, he's far from a golden oldie. Jake and James asked him to tell Roctober readers his story as we spoke to him via phone as he prepared to hit the road on his latest tour.

Dick Dale: I'll just tell you the way it is. You ask me what time it is and I'm gonna tell you how to build a clock. And the story is, as a little child I used to listen to my fathers big records, big 78's. I used to listen to guys like the big Harry James records and I used to listen to Gene Krupa, and we didn't have a lot of money. My parents both worked, and I was born in Boston, Ma., not Beirut, Lebanon.

ROCTOBER: You were not born in Lebanon?

No.

Are you of Lebanese descent?

See, that's what cracks me up, these magazines, these people are all...

You're not of Lebanese descent?

Yes I am. My father's father was born in Beirut, Lebanon. My father was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and Dick Dale was born in Boston, Massachusetts. My mother's father was born in Poland. Actually, they're White Russian, which we just found out. So I'm Polish/White Russian, whatever you want to call it, descent, just like I'd be Lebanese descent.

Do you have any other languages besides English?

No, just my slang from Boston. Anyways, I used to love to listen to Gene Krupa records, you know, and Gene Krupa drumming, because he was...you know, music is sex. It's a sensual driving mode that affects people if it's played a certain way, and Gene Krupa was smart enough to go, and for instance, study the natives...went into the jungle to study their fertility dances, what caused them to be mesmerized...the drummer played on a beat. He was the father of it all, just like Dick Dale is the father of I guess Guitar Player (Magazine) says Dick Dale is the father of Heavy Metal, blowing up 48 amplifiers, creating the first power amplifier. Anyway, the thing is, Gene Krupa wanted to know why...what is it that made people mesmerized. Now what it was was that the natives would create these fertility dances and they would use these rhythms on logs but they kept it simple and they kept it thriving and they kept it driving, they didn't break it. They'd go ding ding-dah dah ding ding-dah dah ding ding-dah and they would keep that always going. What happened was he was smart enough not to let an ego get in front of him and try to impress other musicians, because if you look at his life story all the other musicians said "But we play better than Gene Krupa, we can do more things than Gene Krupa." But Gene Krupa somehow mesmerized the audience moreso than any drummer in the world, I mean these are words quote unquote from Louie Belson, who was asked to speak on his life, and you take Buddy Rich who was one of the most incredible technicians in the world, on this planet, but the only people he could really impress, who knew what he was doing was another musician or another drummer. But when it came right down to gut force, what makes the average person-the average person doesn't know an augmented 9th or 13th so neither do I , cause I never went to school for music. I can play every instrument there is, every horn, I've played all the saxes and trumpets and everything and keyboards...

What age did you start playing all these instruments?

This was when I was back in elementary school and I started listening to these records. So Gene Krupa had something. So he kept it going, just going doom bada doom bada doom bada doom badada he kept that going. So what happens when you go doom bada doom bada doom bada biddli-ba-da-doo, you wake people up, and that only impresses the musicians. So rule #1: Music is an attitude. It's a sensation to the average person, to the human being. And keep it simple, stupid. That's always been my theory because that's the way he did it and he kept it simple. He made people, their funnybones move. Now when I started playing with the piano, my aunt played the piano and I used to sit and listen to it, and then, of course, our family didn't have the money to have these things.

What part of Boston were you living in?

I was born in South Boston, but I was actually raised in Quincy, Massachusetts and I went to Quincy Elementary School, Quincy Jr. High School, then Quincy High School, and I finished my 11th year there, that was in 1954 when we drove to California to finish my senior year. Now, my uncle gave me a trumpet, but I loved the Louis Armstrong sound and the Harry James sound and I played by ear and I played always soulful or very direct from the gut. Then the next thing was I always wanted a guitar so I was reading a Superman magazine one night and it had a picture of a rearing horse with a cowboy with a lariat and it looked really neat, and I always wanted to be a cowboy singer. Why? Because I also listened to Hank Williams, and he would always sing these neat romantic songs, (sings) "Why'd You Leave Me Babe," and as a little kid I had a girlfriend and her boyfriend used to beat me up, so then I used to sing these songs, and that's what it's all about. Country music is all about your heart and your people and things like that. So I said I wanna be a cowboy singer, but I never had a guitar, so I read this book and it had this horse and it said sell all these jars of Noxema skin creme and send us the money and you'll get this ukulele with this cowboy and a horse and a lariat. So I went out in the middle of snow storms banging on doors and bothering the crap out of my neighbors and got enough money to buy a car I think, and then I ended up sending that money in. And then I waited six months before I ever got that stupid thing. And when I did get it, it was painted green. It had a cowboy on it and a lariat and everything. And the pegs had nothing but holes and the pegs would fall out. I was so frustrated, it was just pressed cardboard and I just smashed it in the garbage can. And then I went and took my Pepsi Cola bottles in my little red wagon flyer and went about four miles down to the store and cashed in my little Pepsi bottles for a couple of cents a bottle and raised five dollars and ninety five cents. I should have done that in the first place, and then I bought this creme and brown plastic ukulele. And then I got a chord maker that you slap on it. After you strap it on you're supposed to press buttons and it's supposed to make a chord, but it didn't work. It made everything vibrate. So I took that off and got a book and the book said "put your finger here and put your finger there," but the book didn't say "You're holding it the wrong way stupid", so since I was left handed and all my rhythm- since I used to listen to Gene Krupa, when my mom and dad would leave in the evening I would take their canister set, their sugar and their cookies and all these little metal cans and I'd take these knives (laughs) and I'd bang on them with these regular kitchen knives and I'd play the drums and that's how I developed all this rhythm, just like my son now is 22 months old, he's been playing since he was 12 months old and he gets standing ovations on the drums. I'm sad because I'm not going to be bringing him (on tour) this time. He's been with us since he was 10 weeks old, he's been on the drums. It's incredible. It's been like the traveling Dales. The only reason I'm not bringing him now is we're worried it's so cold. So anyway, his rhythm is so on it's just incredible, and mainly I think it's because when he was in her stomach, in her womb, you know, she was still setting up equipment, my chief roadie, and he could hear this and when he came out he was still banging and kicking and everything else. He blows drummers away. They can't believe he can fathom what he can fathom, he's doing rolls and builds. He knows the whole concert thing. So anyway, now he's doing the same thing I was doing, only he's doing it on a full set of drums. He's got blisters on his fingers before he can even talk. With me all I had was knives and canister sets, so I got my rhythm from that and all my rhythm went into my left hand, so naturally I picked up the ukulele upside down and backwards.

Are you lefthanded on everything? Writing...

Yes.

pitching...

Yes.

...and batting?

No. I'm right handed batting, but I used to shoot a bow the wrong way, and then the found out what eyed I was. Everyone's either left eyed or right eyed and I found out I'm left eyed. So they made me shoot lefthanded. The guy wouldn't make me a bow unless I shot lefthanded, because he was a champion. So I held a ukulele upside down not realizing that and I couldn't understand why my fingers wouldn't stretch where they were supposed to go. I just figured what the hell, par for the course, so I just kept pulling my fingers over and because a guitar is engineered 13ths and 9ths, it's engineered for a right handed player. That's just how it's been designed. So there's things that I could never ever play on a guitar, but there are things righties couldn't play that I do. So now what happens is I was playing a ukulele, so the first three chords I learn were in the key of G, and I learned how to play "The Tennessee Waltz." But since I learned all my rhythm from Gene Krupa I started playing that thing like I was playing on a drum. I'd strum like that because just strumming normally just wasn't enough rhythm for me. So I learned a whole bunch of Hank Williams tunes and that's how I did it. Just before we left Massachusetts in the Summertime I would spend at my grandmother and grandfathers place in Whitman, Massachusetts, which was a more farm area, and then one time a friend of mine took me way out in the back sticks where we used to pick all the swampberries and it was just like in the days of "Deliverance" you might say, you know, that movie. A real wooded area, and there were about fifteen guys in one old house, and they were all strumming on guitars, and they were all flattop guitars and so I said, "Wow, man, look at all these guitars there all strumming. Sounds like a drove of bees." and it was bitchin'. So then one guy says, "Hey, this guys got a guitar for sale. You want it?" And I said, "Well sure, how much does he want?" And he says "Eight bucks" and I said "Wow." I gave him 25 cents down, and I made him payments 50 cents a week til I paid it off.

Did he let you take it home?

Yeah, he let me take it right away. He trusted me. Now, I was so impressed going from a small plastic ukulele into this big hollow body, and it had this tone that was just incredible and I said, "Geez, this thing has six strings. What am I going to do with six strings?" And he says, "Just play the same four you played on the uke and muffle the other two. Nobody'll know the difference." So that's what I did. So here I am playing "The Tennessee Waltz" and "You Wouldn't Read The Letters I Wrote You" and "Honky Tonk Angels", I'm muffling the other two strings, but it was a big sound for four strings. Then I put a hole in the side and ran a chord through and plugged it in and then that was my electric guitar. Then I came to California with it in '54 and when I got out of school, Washington High School in Southwest L.A., I went to work for Hughes Aircraft in metallurgy and in heat treatment for metal, and then what happened was my dad said come on down to this Country bar and your friend is playing guitar, wants you to back him up. He's doing a contest, 'cause I would have never done it if it were just me. So he got me up on the stage with him and I was backing him up strumming, and my buddy kind of panicked, left the stage and left me standing there and I said we'll you can't jump the ship, so I stood there and kept doing something. So, I had learned to play a Boogie because I used to listen to also the Black players, the old Blues. I used to sneak and just stand outside the doors, and in those days they had just a drum, standup bass and a guy would be playing sax, and if they had an electric keyboard player, an organ, a guy would be playing organ. So that was the real Blues, the old Blues. So what happened was I remembered that rhythm and I would do that on the strings, and the people just loved the sound because I kept it simple and then I would win the contest. But the weird part about it was that the guitar didn't win the contest. There was always someone better who could sing better and it was always a tie. So when they did the runoff I'd be like "Oh Shit, what do I do", so I'd grab my trumpet and I'd do a stripper sound, like the old Louis Armstrong, real raspy. And the people would go nuts! Then I knew that the sexual, sensual, guttural sound, that throbbing sound is where it's at.

It seems like, these days the guitar is the instrument of choice, but before you came on the scene and kind of liberated everything, the main Rock and Roll instrument was the saxophone.

It was. Well, o.k., when I came onto the scene, out here in the West Coast there were only two styles. One was Country and the other was Jazz. Jazz was the Big Band Jazz and nobody was allowed at that time to throw dances playing a guitar and charging money at the door. Because guitars were considered evil. It was called devil music. They laugh at this, but it's a fact. The cities would not issue permits to people to throw these kinds of dances. how I found out was when I went to Balboa with my cousin, well I call him my cousin, my buddy, we were both bike riders. We took my guitar down there and said let's go down and see the girls, but if I could back up a little bit, I did all these bars, and Dick Dale won all these contests using a simple, psychological approach of sensual, driving rhythm, and then one of the major contests was somebody playing like Elvis, and I won it and was asked to get on stage at the theatre, 7th and Broadway, in between these two features which were being premiered called "Love Me Tender" and "Jailhouse Rock" and then I played there and started drawing like 1,700 kids there.

Those two films premiered together on the West Coast?

Yeah, right. In California. Then what happened was I had this old guitar that I went and bought out of a hock shop and it was just an old solid body guitar with a pickup in it and I had a little teeny amplifier with a 10" speaker in it and a Flash Gordon thinned microphone. So when I stood on this stage in this theatre there were about four sailors in the audience, get this...I was singing "Teddy Bear" or I don't know what and they're going "Get The Hook!". Then the manager of the theatre said let's plug him into the regular house speakers and put his name in 40 foot letters and then what happened was I sounded big and all of a sudden 1,700 kids just packed the theatre. And that was the start.

Anyone behind you?

It was just Dick Dale standing there strumming like a madman. I was doing rhythms like dun de da dun de da de-de de dun de da, these are the rhythms from Gene Krupa and I would do this and from there went to a Country place that was having a contest in Compton. It was a t.v. station called Town Hall Party. Guys that would come on this show were guys like Johnny Cash before he ever wore black, Tex Ritter...

The Collins Kids!

The Collins Kids, right. Larry and Laurie.

Did you date Laurie?

Yeah. We were kind of sweet on each other. I've got a beautiful 8x10 picture of her and me out behind the barn with our cowboy outfits and I'm bending over like Elvis Presley and were kissing. Someone took and then they sent it to me (laughs) and its a bitchin' shot. So bitchin'. It's not a mugging shot. She was sitting down on a log and I had my foot up on a log next to her and I was bending down, my elbow on my knee, had my finger under her chin and just lifted her little chin up and we were kissing. It was real pretty. It was a hello kiss, only it looked romantic. Someone took that picture and it was really neat 'cause we had on both the same cowboy outfits. So Laurie and Larry and me we all became really good friends. And I remember Tex Ritter bought me my first gunbelt because I loved quickdraws. And I met a lot of people, like Gene Autrey, Freddy Hart, Lefty Frizzell. And I always wanted to be a cowboy singer, and what happened was they found out I could play a trumpet, so they said why don't you play background with that trumpet. I said I wanted to be a cowboy singer . They said we have enough guitar players around here. So I started playing my trumpet. Then I quit and that's when I went down to Balboa, and when I went there this big ballroom was alive with people and sound. It was a giant horn band, they were playing Jazz, it was a big band sound, and that's what I'm saying. You'd never have a guitar group playing because the cities would not give permits for it. They considered it to be evil. So I walked in there with my friend Ray and told the manager when they went on intermission "My name is Dick Dale. I'm from Massachusetts and I was supposed to be on the stage during the intermission." And he said "Dick Who?"(everyone laughs) and I just bullshited my way on so he says o.k. and I got up there and Ray and I are both strumming guitars and I'm playing this sound, cause I developed this de-duka-da duka-da type of rhythm and I'm singing Hillbilly music so I said it's rock and I called it Rockabilly 'cause I was rocking the strums which you're not supposed to do. In fact one time Bonnie Ray Guitar, she was playing a song and I said "Can I play for you, huh? Can I play backup?" and she said o.k. come on up her and I started strumming, but instead of the traditional way; diinng da diinng da, I was going ding a ding a da da dingadada, she goes "strum the right way!" (laughs). And then when I went into this ballroom and started strumming the kids they were dancing in their big petticoats and they were doing the Lindy Jitterbug and stuff like that so they came up and they said Wow! They digged this bopping sound I was doing. So when I left that night I went to this little ice cream parlor called The Rinky Dink Ice Cream Parlor, it was like a Folk music club. They had a lot of Folk music clubs where people would sit with a guitar and talk and just play these Folk songs. And it was really the trend thing when people went out for gatherings, cause like I said, cities didn't allow permits. So I went in and the kid playing the piano, he was playing a boogie woogie style and I loved that. So we got together and I asked the guy if him and I and my friend Ray could play there on the weekends. He said yesh. That's where I met Leo Fender and I said my name is Dick Dale, I don't have any money, I don't really have any instruments of any sort, and he liked me and he became like a second father to me. He said take this Stratacaster, we made it last year, beat it to death and tell me what you think. And I had my little amp and I started strumming on it and started playing at this ice cream parlor. Well the three of us were getting about eight bucks, seven or eight dollars. Then I wanted to get a drummer so I added a drummer and asked for a raise to 12 dollars, and then I wanted to get a rhythm player so I asked for a raise to about 15 dollars and the guy fired me. By then the people were starting to come from like Palm Springs which is a couple of hours away, they're all coming just to see us, so I talk to my father who is still working at Hughes Aircraft. He went and talked to the owners of the Rendezvous Ballroom, that was closed. They were just renting it out for like schools, and they said you won't get any permits, so we had meetings with the city, the chief of police, the fire department, the teachers association and said look, would you rather have your kids in one spot or out on the street. So they said alright, we'll do something different. We'll give you a permit, but the kids have to wear ties. And I go, geez, whoever heard of a surfer wearing a tie, because I had been surfing now, surfing with a buddy and that became part of my life. So my opening night we got a box of ties and handed them out, and everybody had bare feet and ties, to make it legal. Opening night we had 17 people, and they were all surfers I was surfing with and that was the beginning right there. Then I said, how are we going to fill this place up, because this ballroom, the last band that played there was Stan Kenton, the Jazzer and they were trying to make a comeback, because every big band in the world had played there, but when they tried to bring Jazz back a second time they lost about $80,000, so they closed it, and they called it The White Elephant and said that nobody would come three miles on a peninsula to this old building, because it was on the Balboa Peninsula three miles long. So to get more kids to come we went to schools and asked if we could do assemblies. At 7:30 we'd have a musical review, we'd ask the principal to set it up as part of their credits. And he'd ask what we'd be playing, and when we told him guitars, he said no, it's an evil, dirty instrument. So we told him it would be about the Elevation of Music. I'd have a guy dancer in a suit and a girl modern dancer. And they let us do it. And the kids would come out of curiosity. The first fifteen minutes we'd start out with "Sugar Blues" and "Begin the Beguine" and the teachers loved it, and the kids would just be sitting there. Then the next fifteen minutes we'd play our kind of music and the kids went wild and the principal said "Get the hook!"(laughs) So I had to go to the union, all the teachers were there and they told me I was playing dirty music. And I said don't even bother telling me about dirty music unless you can tell me what dirty music is. From then on I was a rebel. But from getting to those high school kids, within three months we had 4,000 people a night at the Rendezvous. The city made us put in 13 fire escapes. It was a complete city block, two floors. On a peninsula three miles long traffic was backed up all the way. Rock bands of the day, The Champs, Chuck Berry, were playing through 10" speakers, stand up bass, there were no power players, no power amps. I told Leo I wanted fat, thick sounds. So Leo, Freddy Traveras, a steel guitar player who was with The Royal Hawaiians band, and me work together and came up with the Fender Dual Showman amp, with 15" speakers. That's how we created the big Dick Dale machine gun picking style. My philosophy is the thicker the wood the thicker the sound, the bigger the string the bigger the sound. My smallest string is a 14 gauge.

How do you feel about groups like The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, who were more vocal harmony based, being associated with the surf sound?

Well, I used to give the Beach boys $50 to open for me. Jan and Dean, The Ventures, used to come see me. I found The Righteous Brothers playing at Jon's Black Derby to six people, they were so ahead of their time.

Playing R&B?

Yes, the Black sound. I told them to go to the Rendezvous, we were about to leave, and they went and played there. This is before it burnt down.

When did it burn down?

I guess the sixties.

Good thing about those 13 fire escapes.

Kids called it Surf music I didn't call it that. The kids called me King of the Surf Guitar. I surfed sun up to sun down. I don't claim to be a musician, I didn't go to Julliard. I'm into just chopping, chopping at 60 gauge, 50 gauge strings. That's the sound, the sound of the waves chopping. The Surfing sound is not the reverb.

There's no reverb on "Let's Go Tripping"(an early Dick Dale hit).

That's right. I'm glad you said that. There's not one reverb on "Surfer's Choice" (Dick's first LP). It wasn't invented. That came later. We stole it out of a Hammond organ. I had no bravado in my voice, and I wanted sustaining sound, so we took it out of a Hammond organ, put it in an amp and I put in a microphone and sang and got sustaining sound and I said "Bitchin'!" Then I tried my guitar and said "Really bitchin'!" But "Surfer's Choice" sold 80,000 copies, which is like selling a million today, without any reverb. So when historians, so called historians, say the reverb's the Surf sound...they don't know what they're talking about. It's the heavy machine gun, staccato sound. The waves. These people who don't know anything talk and talk. That's why monks go off to the mountains. That's why old people don't talk much. They just smile and go through life as it is. The only honesty I've found is in rare people, like surfers with the spirituality of the waves. Also in animals.

How did you get involved with owning so many exotic animals?

I grew a love for helpless, defenseless things. People would give me lions and jaguars. I had cheetahs, monkeys...

Did you have problems with zoning?

Well, I used to do things for the mentally retarded children. What happened was I wanted to fly my falcons, hawks at a public field, so I asked permission, and they said it's o.k. if you bring some to the Fairview Hospital to show the children and so I'd bring my lion, my great Dane. There was a time I had 30 animals, without any problems because I kept them well mannered, they had special water...at Newport Beach I had a cheetah in the front and an ocelot in the back, 22 fishtanks, a baby mountain lion. These animals were my pals. I just kept taking in more and more.

Do you still have them?

I put the lion and tiger in a compound in Riverside when I had my baby. But when my son was ten weeks old I had him playing with a baby tiger. He got his first tiger claw in him. I always felt people should live with animals. There's a saying. If you want someone to love you forever, buy a dog, feed it and keep it around.

How do you like the records you've made?

Everything I've done (before "Tribal Thunder") is a piece of shit. (Roctober vehemently disagrees) Everytime I went into the studio some engineer was going to try to impress me with how they're going to capture my sound with all kinds of tricks. But they limited the sound and never allowed me to play how I felt, like I did "Tigers Loose" live...nothing ever sounds like The Beast(Dick's guitar) did when I'm on stage. So I stopped recording. And then when I was asked to play in San Francisco Joel Silvin with the San Francisco Chronicle, he was a heavy big Rock critic, finally he says, "I'm gonna tell it like it is." He wrote a big story on The History of Dick Dale, and then the show was sold out. This was a place even million sellers don't sell out.

Well, they were lucky to see you. Your shows are great.

When I start playing I'm just a rollercoaster of sound. I don't know what's coming next, I never do, and I sit and sign and talk to the people afterwards. Well, what happened next was Hightone (Records) contacted me and wanted to record. They told me they were a small label and they'd let me do it how I wanted. I guess I didn't know how small they were, they can't even supply money for a video, or keep the recording in the stores. Well I told them if were going to do it were going to do it right, I'm not leaving (the studio) 'til it's done. Luckily we found an engineer who cut the bullshit. He said it's gonna be tough, but I'm willing. My wife, child and I slept in the studio. We cut these raw. And I had stories to tell about the ecology, the power mongers, the bullshit. I wanted to put a sheet in explaining what all the songs are about, but they didn't do it. I'm a perfectionist. I'm not going to cheat the people, see I play different everytime I play. To get a four star review in Rolling Stone and have them say Dick Dale's a pioneer, he should be playing with...it's frustrating. MTV asks me for a video and when I tell my record company they say "What if they don't play it?" They could play any one of my songs, the whole album on the radio. Some guys record an album with songs that are filler. I recorded this album like it was my last. Every song is like a painting. I feel it is my best. I mixed my music with my lions and tigers, where I get the same screams as waves over my head. Where you've got two mother nature forces you can't control then you've got to go with them. When a lion puts 18 stitches in your skull, man realizes he is nothing, when you paddle over to ten foot waves, study martial arts for 30 years, you understand silence. There is a saying; He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak. Music is just one facet of my life.

Besides your own work, what is some of your favorite stuff to listen to?

I can get into Nat "King" Cole, as I can Ry Cooder, and Van Halen and Slash, anybody. Right now I'm getting ready to play the Virgin Mega Store. The night I'm gonna play they tell me someone really wants to play with you - Slash of Guns n' Roses. And I didn't know who he is, but my wife tells me. She knows all that stuff.

Here's something I heard about you that may not be true. My friend Johnny in Providence asked a guy in a band from your neck of the woods, Flophouse, do you know them?

No.

Well then this is probably spurious. He asks them "Does Dicky Dale still play a Fender dual Showman amp?" and the guy says "Dicky fucking Dale!?!, If you ever called him Dicky to his face he'd punch your fucking lights out!" Is it true?

(laughs) Well, I still have the Dual Showman. Leo said if it can stand Dick Dale's barrage it can stand anything. It's the original.

About the punching...?

True, I used to be a mean maniac. Someone once threw a firecracker at a show and I jumped off the side of the stage and whacked 'em on the side of the head.

With your fist or guitar?

I'd do both. That's why I've got holes in my guitar. I studied martial arts 30 years. When someone's smoking pot in the front of one of my shows and it's bothering me, I'll make 'em put it out. Dick Dale has never had a drug in his life. I never drank. I wouldn't infect my body. I just said (at a show) "Whoever's smoking that raunchy shit better stop" and the people around him made him put it out.

What about when Jimi Hendrix...

Jimi made a statement "You'll never hear Surf music again." That was taken out of context by most people. At the time I had rectal cancer. I was given three months to live and I went down to 98 pounds. I had never missed a show, but this time I was so sick that I did. So the Surftones and he did Omni Park in Anaheim. Jimi found out about my surgery, it was one of the first times they used a laser. I had 14" of rectal tissue removed, six tumors and seven cysts. Jimi thought I was dying and that's why he said you'll never hear Surf music again. People say he was putting it down, but that's not true. He was a good guy 'til he got into drugs. That's the way it is. I just tell it like it is. I get high- a natural high- off of a ten, fifteen foot wave, flying in a plane, face to face with a tiger. That's what (the song) "Nitro" is about. People who live like that.

Do you still surf?

No. Water's too polluted. I almost had to have my leg amputated because of an infection. You can't eat the fish. It's 6,000 parts DDT per million all over the world, that's not counting radiation. I wish everyone could read (the insert for the CD) I wrote. I'm going to start snowboarding.