Dick Dale: On the mend and shredding again


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I caught up with surf guitar hero Dick Dale in Anaheim over the weekend at the 2011 NAMM show, that wondrously cacophonous gathering put on by the International Music Products Assn. that brings together seemingly anyone and everyone who makes, sells or plays equipment used in all aspects of music making.

Dale was just wrapping up an autograph session just outside the exhibition area for Fender Musical Instruments Group, the company whose guitars the elder Dale has been playing since he first started pounding out those watery, reverb-soaked riffs and solos back in the 1950s.


Dale went through extensive surgery last year to try to locate and repair an intestinal leak that caused a potentially life-threatening infection. But over the weekend he displayed his old energy and enthusiasm as he sat scribbling signatures for a line of convention-goers, accompanied by his guitar-playing son, Jimmy, with whom he now tours. In addition to Friday’s autograph session, the Dales also gave a demonstration on Saturday of a new line of Fender acoustic guitars they helped design.

Dick told me that he’s not entirely out of the woods health-wise yet. Following a few more previously scheduled shows, including the NAMM appearances and public performances Feb. 4 at the Brixton Club in Redondo Beach and Feb. 5 at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, the 73-year-old Stratocaster shredder will go back to the hospital for a follow-up procedure he needs to address additional complications he’s had since a malignant tumor was taken out of his intestinal tract in 2008.

He’s let fans know about his condition, often sharing details with fans who also are cancer patients and who have created something of a survivor community around him.

“I stay positive,” Dale said. “I like to show people that it’s something you can live with.”

--Randy Lewis