Dick Dale mattered a lot to me and my guitar playing. That fiery tremolo picking jumped out of the speakers like an airplane taking off. I could listen to Miserlou all day long and never tire of it. When I’m playing guitar – which is every day – my noodling will always include a run up the low E string, with DD being the wind in my sail.
I sent Dick Dale an email once, back in the 90’s, during Gone Hazel’s heyday. Having read a little bit about how he preferred to use an insanely heavy gauge string, I was curious. The Master replied that afternoon, telling me that yep, it’s got to be heavy for him. Like telephone wire. I immediately went out and bought the heaviest strings I could find, attempting to defy and possibly snap the natural strength of my guitar neck and my left hand fingers. What I remember (that email is buried in some box) is that the high E was a 16 and that the low E was definitely higher than a 56, possibly as high as a 60.
Problem. Back then, I was sloppy and aggressive and strings broke all the time. DD’s gauge of choice put too much strain on my Strat (actually, it belonged to Bob). On a good day I was more of a thug as I kick boxed my way through a set. Strings snapped ever more frequently and as for bending a string – forget about it.
So I modified the Dick Dale Telephone Wire to something a regular human could play. I climbed back down from the mountain, wiped the sweat from my forehead and got to work not imitating, but drawing inspiration from this incredible musician.
Sport, our last single and release while we were together, has Dick Dale all over it. The pounding beat, the clanging guitars and the interlude, which softly stretches out Miserlou’s minor melody into something entirely different. There are other elements and inspired bits in Sport, but to me, it will always be my tribute to him.
It never occurred to me to write this up while he was still alive. Don’t know why. So here it is, Dick. A big hug.
Peace and love, man. And thank you.