Go ahead -- ask Dick Dale what ring tone he's using on his cell. "I've got 'Pump It!' from the Black Eyed Peas," he says. The song, from the 2005 album Monkey Business, samples the driving, exotic, low thunder-rumble of the Dick Dale classic "Miserlou."
"They came to me and asked if they could write words to 'Miserlou' ... talk about bridging the generation gap," he says.
Without a doubt. Dale's version of "Miserlou" dates to 1962 -- Fergie wouldn't even be a lovely little newborn lump for another 13 years.
Through the late 1950s and early '60s, Dale channeled the energy he felt while riding high on a wave into a distinctive surf sound using reverb, fast staccato picking, and custom Fender amps. In 1961, "Let's Go Trippin'" by Dick Dale & The Del-Tones led the surf-rock sound on a slow roll across America. It was a time of hot rods, surfboards, sun, and sand. Dale, nicknamed the "King of the Surf Guitar," played on the Ed Sullivan Show and appeared in Muscle Beach Party and Back to the Beach with Frankie and Annette. He was living on the beach in California with a house full of lions and tigers, releasing one album after the other, and riding high on the pre-British Invasion infatuation that was sweeping the states.
Then, cancer struck. He nearly died. It took him off stage for a very long time and, depending on which version of the story one subscribes to, was the inspiration for his friend Jimi Hendrix declaring, "You'll never hear surf music again" on "Third Stone from the Sun."
Dale didn't record again until the 1980s. He played on "Pipeline" with Stevie Ray Vaughan (available on the killer 1989 comp King of the Surf Guitar: The Best of Dick Dale), earning a Grammy nomination, and in 1994, the ultra-hip Quentin Tarantino masterwork Pulp Fiction brought Dick Dale's driving guitar work back into the American consciousness.
The guitarist tells the story of how Tarantino tracked him down and laid out his plan for the film, a film built music-first, driven forward on the energy of rhythms. Tarantino wanted to use "Miserlou."
"I said go for it," Dale recalls. "When the movie started, my song slammed me right in the face. The rest is history."
These days, Dale is busy filming a documentary, Passing the Torch, about teaching his son, Jimmy, how to survive in the music business. "It's about learning how to be an entertainer, not just a musician," he says. "That way he'll be able to perform for the rest of his life."
The filming schedule necessitated a change in his usual club tour dates, earning him stops at a few venues he hadn't played before.
"I've always liked the Carolinas because of the history," Dale says of his upcoming show in Charleston. "Every city I go into, I always find something special."
Dale live on stage promises to be an experience -- an eclectic, electric, spontaneous, decades-spanning set of exotic scales and a driving rapid-fire sound. "Everything I do, I make up from the top of my head," he says. "You might hear anything from Deep Purple to Chuck Berry to Johnny Cash. I make it up as I go along."