By Dave Dunwoodie
As the nostalgia, accolades and stories of the King of Surf Guitar roll out we just had to add our voice to the many tributes to Dick Dale. His playing style was completely original and his mark in the guitar and music industry is and will be, legend.
I have a personal story to share about this amazing guy, but business first. We want to show our appreciation for all the support that Dick gave to us over the years and to help out his family and close friends in this time of grieving and reflection.
The love of his life, Lana Dale, his son Jimmy and closest friends have posted a Go Fund Me page to assist with the financial obligations that often follow many of our great legends beyond these worldly realms; so effective immediately we’ve decided that 20% all sales of String Saver Saddles around the world until June 29th, 2019 (the day I met Dick 22 years ago) will go directly to the Dick Dale Funeral-Medical Expenses Fund. Of course, don’t feel shy about going directly to the Go Fund Me Page to make a personal donation. And if you have an anecdote or story to share about Dick we’d love to hear it and we’ll post them on our website as well.
Now here’s my story of our small part of the Dick Dale legend:
It started when he called me in 1994/95. Pulp fiction was just breaking, and he was riding a new wave, the surf was up! He said he saw an ad in Guitar Player magazine about String Saver Saddles, and said, “If you’ve got a way to stop my strings from breaking, I’m in! I’m using 16 to 60’s on the Beast, (that’s what I call my guitar), and I’m using this gauge for my tone and to try to stop breaking so many strings!” We talked for a while and I explained how String Saver Saddles worked; giving the strings just a bit more play at the witness point (where the strings leave the saddle), and because of the permanent lubrication they have, so the strings don’t get metal fatigue on that exact point; it kind of spreads the stress over a great portion of the string, which explains why a wound string’s core breaks, not the outside windings.
Well, Dick had obviously been studying this a lot. He said, “You know, you’re onto something, when I check my broken strings, they are black where they broke, like they’ve been heated up.” Well, I thought, here is a legendary guitar player using 60’s to try stop his strings from breaking and nothing worked for him. I was pretty sure we could solve this, but I hadn’t heard of anybody using 60’s before! Long story short, they worked way better than we imagined, and from then on, the “Beast” always had String Saver Saddles. The last time I saw his guitar up close, about 5 or 6 years ago, and I’m sure those were still the original saddles, he had smoothed out the edges of the saddles from the hard, constant staccato picking he used night after night. They looked pretty cool, like somebody had taken 1000 grit sandpaper and spend a few hundred hours polishing them up.
Dick was one of the first big names to use String Savers, so after a few months, he called back to let me know these saddles really worked. So I asked him if I could come over and get a few photos of him and the Beast with my saddles. I’m not an outgoing guy, so this was a big deal for me! He said sure, come on out. He told me a bit about his house and airstrip in 29 Palms, Led Zeppelin fans, now you know! He gave me directions and I’ll never forget the drive out.
The directions were something like, “look for 3 rocks by a cactus, and turn left, go down about 5 miles… etc.” Well, I finally got there. I couldn’t believe I found it, and I knocked on the door and no answer. After about 5 minutes, there he was “whew!” He had totally forgotten I was showing up. It was the night after the Holyfield/Tyson fight so, neither of us were in the best of shape. I spent the night before in Palm Springs watching the fight having a few drinks too, but we had a great day together. I saw his plane, his runway, lots of stories, good laughs and an impromptu acoustic jamming session with his friend, and now my friend too, Louis Metoyer.
From that day on, Dick always made a point of making an appearance at our NAMM show booth, and playing some tunes, telling stories with his son Jimmy and he introduced me to his wife Lana, whom he credited with really pulling him through his battle with cancer.
I’m not sure what Dick liked more, playing, talking just about music and rhythm. He was passionate about both. His mind was always sharp and his drive for life and music; you couldn’t miss it and you couldn’t stop it. At our NAMM Show hospitality suite, Dick and his son, Jimmy always made a point of being there, we shared a lot of great times, including guitar lessons with Dick, impromptu jams and great stories we shared with a lot of great guitar friends from around the world.
So again, we want to give a little back for so much he gave.
Please visit the Dale family Go Fund Me page and let’s push the total over the top for the King of Surf Guitar, the legend and I’m please to say, my friend. We will miss him.
We wish his wife and the love of his life, Lana Dale, his son Jimmy and family our deepest sympathies and a promise to always remember the King of Surf. Farewell Sir. You will not be forgotten.
~ Dave Dunwoodie and the entire crew at Graph Tech Guitar Labs.
“Dick Dale was truly the King of Surf Guitar. Before the Beach Boys gave this new genre lyrics, Dick Dale was providing the instrumental soundtrack to the surfing experience. He influenced everybody!” Stevie Van Zandt said in a statement.