Dick Dale is known as the King of the Surf Guitar, and for good reason. He basically invented the surf music genre with his reverb-drenched distorted-Fender-Strat-through-Fender-amps gloriously-glissandoing staccato-picked guitar instrumentals.
Dale had his first heyday in the early 1960’s in Southern California, and roared back into popular consciousness when his signature song “Miserlou” was used to great effect in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Now in his seventies, Dale still has the fire that he showed in his early recordings, and gives awe-inspiring concerts like the one from 2009 reviewed here.
The following interview was for a preview article for Dale’s scheduled concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 11/10/13, which unfortunately was canceled. But the interview is still worth reading. As you’ll see, it turned out not to be a standard Q&A; instead, after a shaky start on the part of the interviewer, Dale spoke at length about his life in music and beyond. This was done by phone on 10/16/13.
Jeff Moehlis: Thanks for taking the time to do this. I saw you at the same venue in 2009 and just loved the show. I’m hoping to help you sell the place out this time. So my first question is, what can we look forward to at your upcoming concert?
Dick Dale: [long silence]
JM: Sorry, hello?
DD: Yeah, did you hear me?
JM: Sorry, I didn’t hear your reply.
DD: What could you look forward to? And I said… [long silence]
JM: You’re messing with me, aren’t you?
DD: No, I’m just telling a fact.
JM: OK, so no comment?
DD: It’s just you said you saw me, you know?
JM: Well, I know that people would rather hear it from you than from me.
DD: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. The best thing is to hear from others rather than to hear directly from me. You know, I once was being interviewed, well, trying to be interviewed, or started to be interviewed, by this person who had never seen a Dick Dale concert, and they said, “OK, well, what do you do?” And I said, “Well, first of all, have you ever been to a Dick Dale concert?” This was to promote a place that I was going to be playing. It was an elderly “she”, who was the only one who wrote for this particular town, and she said, “No.” And I said, “Well, why don’t you do some homework and actually go onto YouTube, or something like that, and you’ll see exactly what I do.”
But even then, that isn’t the proper way of doing it. For instance, I could tell you all about what I do, and then you’ll write down the way you perceive it to be, and what we perceive things to be are not what they really are perceived to be by the ear holder. So I told her, “Can you tell me honestly, if you went to a person’s concert and sat directly in front of them, that you would get the same input in your brain and your mind and your sensitivities throughout your body? Do you think you would get the same impact that you would if you heard the person tell you about what they do, or read about “Gee, the guy was incredible, and he did this and he did that.” How could you write with the same fervor? Impossible, it’s impossible. So she got so upset within all that, flustered or whatever, we just didn’t continue. And that was that. And it’s true. How can a person write about what the person was like if they had never sat in front of them and felt the full onslaught of what that entertainer is doing from the stage?
Two things. I once had a young black girl, about seventeen, come and grab my hand on the stage when we had finished, and said, “Mr. Dale, my boyfriend and I, we love your music. You make my body undulate.” I had to go and look that up. And she said, “Would you please sign my arm?” That’s when I used to sign body parts, in those days. But I don’t anymore because of legality reasons. That person was moved to say that.
Then, another person had come to me, and said, “Man, you take me out into space, man. You take me out into space when you play.” And that’s what caused me, being a pilot, to use the phrase “Spacial Disorientation”, which pilots can get, and the gauges that they’re looking at start spinning and they don’t believe what they’re looking at, and the plane is upside-down and they think they’re flying it right-side up. That’s called spatial disorientation. The hairs in your ear, when you turn your head to the left they will slowly turn to the left, but when you turn your head to the right they don’t turn to the right immediately. It takes a moment. The only thing that lets you know that you’re turning back to the right is your eyes and your feet, to say this is which way you’re going. But when you’re flying in a cloud, you have no vision, and you have no feelings with your feet and the ground, so now you believe the hairs in your ear saying you’re still turning to the left. And that’s what kills pilots. So the kid was telling me, “Dude, you make me feel like I’m in space”, so I named my CD Spacial Disorientation, I named the song that I created “Spacial Disorientation”.
These are the things that explain why I don’t like to do interviews. I’d rather have the person see me in person, and relate what the performance did to them. Of course, there’s an old saying, “You’re only as good as your last show.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But I’ve transfixed it to another statement, it’s a DD statement: “You’re only as good as your next show.” And the reason why that is said, is that when somebody has seen you and they would like to explain what your show was all about and how powerful it may have been, he can only relate that in his words to the friend he wishes to bring to see that entertainer for the first time. So now, what if the show isn’t as good as the last time when his friend saw it? So you’re only as good as your next show.
JM: I like that philosophy.
DD: That’s what I believe in. And that’s basically it. But, when I perform, if you’re asking Dick Dale, “What do you do in your performance?” When I perform, on a scale of 1 to 10, I never, never, make it less than a 15. And that’s it.
JM: Having seen one of your concerts before, that’s definitely a good way to describe it.
DD: One writer said it was like watching and seeing and hearing the onrushing of two locomotives bashing head on. Another writer said it’s like being a Molotov cocktail thrown again a wall and watching it explode on fire as it drips down the wall. There are so many things that they have said that are really cool. It affects people in different ways. One man said that I was exorcising the devil out of my guitar. Another person said it was like he was chopping down a tree with his guitar. I closed the ending performances of CBFB’s. They brought me out to do the closing concert, to do that. Well, one punk rock writer said, “I’ve been listening to these punk rock bands for the last ten years.” And everybody was racing around the stage and doing their thing, and the guitar and the bass player and the keyboards and all these people, they were having a blast on that stage. And then he said, not to be up in ego or anything like that, I’m just repeating what he said, and he said, “Then the master came to town. Now I know what I should have been listening for, after seeing him.”
Basically, what he was talking about was, I honestly believe, it was a statement given to me when I did a portion of the Warped Tour. Did you ever hear of that?
DD: There was a guitarist, he was a great player. I’m not a guitarist. I don’t know an Augmented 9th, 13th or anything from that. I’m self-taught. I just pick up the guitar and make it scream with pain or romance, or the sounds of nature’s creatures screaming, like my lions and tigers did, and also when I’m surfing. So I manipulate an instrument with my hands.
This guitarist came up to me, a young fellow on the Warped Tour. He was in an opening band. He said to me, “Mr. Dale, this is the first time I’ve heard of you, and I’ve got to see you. It is the first time I’ve actually heard speed played with every note and it didn’t sound like oatmeal. I could feel everything that you played on that guitar.”
Now, what he was feeling was a rhythm from Gene Krupa on drums, because drums were my first instrument, and he learned his rhythms from the natives, from the indigenous tribes. To play the beats on the “one”: ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE. And even in the shaolin temples in the martial arts, they never allow you to touch the skin of a drum. But you can tongue what you’d like to play. So it would be TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA.
And that is an actual fill on the drum. You start with the snare, the rack tom, the second rack tom, and the floor tom, and the kick beat, bass drum. It would go TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA. And when you could do that, so that you can actually feel the application on the “one”… For instance, [really fast] TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA. Like that. That there is trained into your brain for a rhythm, like a metronome, and you will never lose it once you have applied that. And when you can do that with your hands, and you would slap on the drums TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA, or ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE, you can feel that “one”, that’s what that young fellow was feeling, and listening to. He wasn’t listening to every single note, he was listening to every single application to create that rhythmic ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four.
So when I do a run, or a riff, I’ll go [very fast] TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA-ka-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TA TA, like that. And it’ll give you the feeling that you’re hearing and feeling every single note. Why? Because you are separating the passage, number one, every single time on the fourth beat, TA-ka-tik-a, it’s ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE. And that’s what people don’t do. They play their instruments with their fingers and all this other stuff, and they do not feel the application, and it sounds like oatmeal. It doesn’t sound like the true sound that Gene Krupa, who learned from the indigenous tribes, from the aborigines from the Zulus, every type. Every one of them. When they stomp their spears on the ground, they go BOOM. TIK-a-tik-a BA-ka-tik-a TIK-a-tik-a BOOM. TIK-a-tik-a TA-ka-tik-a TIK-a-tik-a BOOM, like that.
So everything that I do, I teach every one of my musicians to play that way, the drummer, the bass player, to follow me. So that every one of their strikes will be exactly like my strike. And that’s why we sound like ten people up there. It’s such a tremendous, focused punch of the sound that we are delivering to the people. And they feel it throb in their body.
In the beginning, even in the late ’50’s, the principles were to tell the girls that even though they have their petticoats on with about seventeen layers underneath… they would grind themselves to “Shake and Stomp” or the way I was playing the guitar. They would make them sit down on the floor and cross their legs. They wouldn’t allow them to dance, because it was attacking their body like it did the natives, the indigenous tribes that Gene Krupa would watch during their ceremonial rites. They would hypnotize themselves and then drop to the ground. So there’s a real psychological approach. And then the sounds…
I would slide up and down like the mountain lion would scream to me when he wanted to be fed. Or he saw me driving back on the property. And they were not in little small cages – they had big, full running cages like they were in the jungles, or in the prairies. And he would go, “Waaaahhh”, like that, and I would do that on my guitar. Or the elephant, every time he wanted to be fed… I was preserving the breeds of these animals so that they could live a full live instead of being killed by poachers. I used to sleep with my lions and my jaguars, and stuff like that. For thirty five years I did that, and then I surfed. So, “Where did my sound come from?” The rhythm came from Gene Krupa, me imitating him on my guitar. And then the next step was imitating all of my animals, my hawks, falcons, eagles. I used to trap them and clean them and take all the parasites out of their throats, and then send them on their way. The way the animals would talk to me. And so the step was, all of the sounds from my animals went into my guitar. They still do as we speak today.
And then the third step was me surfing from sun-up to sun-down, constantly, with the roar, being in a tube, being eaten up, spit out, like a meat grinder. You know, from Mother Nature. So, these were all combined into sounds, and that’s what the people hear.
Then you have the romantic side of me, where I like to play everything from country music, which was my first love. In fact, we’re going to work on a CD where I do some… On the CDs that I’ve done, I’ve always managed to throw in… Like if you get Spacial Disorientation, that CD, it’ll have some beautiful stuff like “Belo Horizonte” that I wrote when I was in South America. The songs like “Oasis of Mara”, that sounds like Antonio Bandaras walking down a dirt road and you hear the winds blowing, carrying two guitar cases with machine guns in them [both laugh]. I love the Latino music. When I learned to played the trumpet, I played in fact on Spacial Disorientation, I did all the trumpet, all the mariachi stuff you hear. The three-part harmony on my trumpet. Because I can play every instrument – my sax, harmonicas, drums, you name them I can play them.
Piano is my favorite. I used to play it for my mother all the time while she was bedridden. I’ve managed to use every one of these instruments in every one of my recordings. With every style and sound. Spacial Disorientation, what we did, was a mixture of everything. Everything from me doing the last five songs on an acoustic guitar, and the last song being, as an instrumental, “Silent Night”, which is very, very haunting, and very beautiful. It reminded me, when I was selling newspapers for two cents a copy back in Massachusetts, in the city of Quincy, and walking home in the snow at ten o’clock at night, eleven o’clock at night, and my feet were crunching in the snow, and it was coming from the blue halo passing through the streetlamps, and you could hear the crunching of the snow. I recorded “Silent Night”. So there’s a mixture.
On that album I sing like Barry White. I sing like John Lee Hooker, I was singing and playing the blues. Things like that. It’s a mixture of every style of music. I play classical on the piano, I play Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano, I play Fats Domino on the piano. And there were many different concerts that I did where I used to do things like that. I’d have a grand piano on the stage, you know, stuff like that. Organs. And I’d play boogie-woogie. But now I do what I do right now.
I can’t play the trumpet because of the cancer and the diabetes, and I’m in renal failure, and I’m anemic, and they tell me that I can’t be on the stage because it’ll put holes in my intestinal tract because of what radiation has done to my body. But I still do it anyway. When I start to bleed I tend to take care of it.
My wife Lana, she was a nurse in St. Petersburg, Florida, very brilliant in the field of medicine, taking care of the veterans. It’s the largest veteran’s hospital in the country, in St. Petersburg. Through her knowledge, she saved my life three times where the doctors had made serious mistakes. I mean, I was on the gurney for twelve hours after collapsing and they didn’t know what it was all about. There were five doctors there, and they couldn’t figure it out. And Lana walked in and she just pointed it right out on their screen. She said, “Gentlemen, there’s three fistulas – one, two, three. Do you see them?” They were so busy trying to find something else, they didn’t see what she saw immediately.
There was a time when I was going blind, I couldn’t see the street signs. So I said, “Well, I’m getting old”, so we went and I got some glasses. Yeah, eight hundred dollars later. They say you buy one and you get one free. Yeah, eight hundred dollars later [laughs]. So then I could see the freeway sign. And then, when she insisted, she said, “I want his blood done completely.” You know, a lot of times they’ll give you a blood test, but they don’t go completely. And my urologist comes in with the paper, his findings, and he said, “Oh, his blood is fine. It’s great!” He used the words, “It’s great! Everything’s great. We’ll take the tubes out.”
Well, I had been catheterizing myself. Is that the word? Or cauterize? I always think of that word [cauterize] because I used to have to do that every time one of my lions bit me somewhere [laughs]. Do my own suturing. But what happened is I was catheterizing myself for two years, and I said, “No, leave the tubes in me. I’ve got to do twenty-five more concerts starting in two days.” And so Lana said, “I want to see the paperwork.” He had to do an operation so they faxed it to her. She read it and she called him back, and she said, “Did you read his blood?” He said, “Why, what’s wrong with it?” She goes, “It’s supposed to be 80 over 120. It over 600. That’s a coma, and you die.” “Oh my God, get him in the hospital. We’re gonna lose him.” Blah, blah, blah, blah. And we were three and a half hours away from Hollywood. So anyway, we said to send me this particular medicine and we’ll work on it ourselves. And she got it down into the 300’s, and then down into the 200’s, and now I can see perfectly. And I don’t need the eight hundred dollar glasses. They sit up on the shelf as a memento.
And that’s what we’re doing. We treat ourselves with things she has done research on, all over the world. Because she’s constantly doing that, helping others. Any problems that I have. And unfortunately because of what is going on with the health situation for people, they cannot afford to buy what they need to buy. It costs me $3000 a month above the insurance, that will not pay for my medical supplies. Because I wear a bag on my stomach. And then they screwed me up. I had two nine-and-a-half hour operations, with three surgeons, and I had another five-and-a-half hour operation. And they didn’t even know my bladder was totally destroyed because of the radiation.
So, we treat ourselves with the stuff that we have found out. A cancer cell cannot live with oxygen. It kills out. You can see all this on the computer. Just look up “cancer”, look up “oxygen”, see what it is. Oxygen in liquid form. The Egyptians have been using hydrogen peroxide, food grade, 35%, and that kills cancer cells in your body and other cells that are deadly to your body. There’s a thing called Cellfood, kills cancer cells. The medical world knows about it, there are a few of them that will admit it. We have had a few that are very close to us say, “Yes, we know about it, but we’re not allowed to talk about it.” You’ll just see it all over the computer if you look it up. So we use that.
My wife is going through the same thing with MS. Her mother has MS, and Lana’s been dealing with MS and a tumor in her thyroid and her throat, and she has fibromyalgia throughout her body. And we take no pain pills, because that retards healing fifty percent, and the doctors won’t tell you that. We treat ourselves that way, and we have never put a drug in our body, ever, and we have never put alcohol in it. We never drank. We don’t put alcohol in our bodies, we don’t smoke cigarettes. We don’t eat red meat. So that’s what gives me the power, and I’m seventy-six. Yes, I did collapse. My last tour was about twenty-eight concerts, and I had collapsed on the last concert before doing it as I was going to the venue, because my body was in anemia. And I had gotten food poisoning, and the food poisoning just took me out and I collapsed as I stepped out of the car. Couldn’t move. I was shaking. It was horrible what I went through because of the food poisoning hitting me with the anemia. That’s only the second concert that I had ever missed in my entire career since 1955.
JM: That’s awesome.
DD: As I say, we don’t put anything… I have a shirt that we made up in our merch. It’s a picture of me looking into the sky, and it just says, “Your Body Follows Your Mind”. So don’t be stupid and weak. Don’t put anything into your mouth, to go into your body, that’s going to kill you. Take care of your body like it’s your temple. I learned that in the martial arts, which I’ve been in all of my life since my teens. So that’s how we do what we do. We go on the road, and we just hope that the people…
Me, being a club owner for many years, many, many years, and I own three clubs that I built. I learned that your product is only as good as your marketing ability. When I couldn’t figure why my club wasn’t selling out like some of the other ones that I had known, I went to them and said, “What do you do?” And when they told me what they did, I did exactly the same thing. And I sold out every night. So, that’s what I would suggest, people that go to see a DD concert and it’s filled to the max, go to the booker and say “How did you promote this?” Because there have been concerts that I have performed at that people had come up to me two days later, as I was on the road, and said, “I didn’t know you were there! I live four blocks away, and I didn’t know you were there. I would’ve been there in a moment.” I mean, we sold an audience of 30,000 people in Las Vegas, called Viva Las Vegas. That’s how we opened my last concert, playing “Viva Las Vegas”. 30,000 people. I was signing after it was over for five hours, with my wife Lana, with our merch. You know, it’s one thing…
When I was in Berlin, we played 490,000 people. It was like Woodstock. And then we play in the nightclubs that have a thousand people. Or six hundred people. Which I enjoy, myself. I enjoy the 30,000 people concerts, in the fairs, because I’m close to them, they come up to the stage. Whereas when you’re playing to 500,000 people, the heads look like the top of a little toothpick, you know. They can’t be near you, and stuff like that. But with the fairs, where you have twenty, thirty thousand people, you feel that they’re in your hand. I have a nice picture one of my roadies took from behind me with his cellphone, of me waving to them on the Viva Las Vegas concert we had done. So I would suggest to everyone, because you said that you hope there’s a lot of people… and I have to chuckle because it’s all in the hands of the people who book you. And they’re the ones who have to come up with the way they get the word out. And a lot them sometimes don’t want to spend the money for fliers and newspapers, and stuff like that, so they try to go by word of mouth, they try to go by using the computer, and stuff like that. But you’ve got to learn how, go to the areas where the majority of the people are going to see, and that’s basically it. So it ain’t my fault if it doesn’t sell out. Because I’ve never seen anybody walk out of a Dick Dale concert and say the guy sucks.
JM: Whenever I do interviews I like to ask this question: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
DD: Well, the first advice would be to walk your own path. And your body follows your mind. Do not destroy yourself with people who have a band and want you to be a part of a band, and if they’re drinking and if they’re doing drugs of any sort, smoking a joint or taking anything like that, run as fast as you can away. Just because you’re getting this offer to play in a band that is already doing a big deal, riding in the big, fancy buses and everything, but they’re doing drugs and booze… it’s not worth it. And so, what I would suggest is, play your instrument, figure out what kind of music you want to play, and I would suggest learn to play every style of music that the people are going to enjoy, like an all-age range. Because you might have to play it for nothing one day, and so you’d better enjoy what you’re doing. So you’d better enjoy playing for the people. Don’t play for yourself.
For instance, I remember when I was asked to play in a club that I’d never been to. So what did I do? I went and got the top ten played songs on the radio, and I learned them. And I learned them good. And I even put a little bit of my style to them. But I learned them good so that people could relate to them and say, “Wow, that’s cool!” Now, when I owned my nightclub, when I was hiring bands, I’d say, “What kind of music can you play?” And when they used to tell me, “Oh, we do our own thing, man”, I don’t use them, I don’t hire them. Because there’s a way, psychologically, that you introduce what you do.
I tell this to these young kids. I say, “Learn songs that the audience that you’re going to be playing for can recognize. And then start off with about four of those songs, one after another, and let them see that you can really play them. Then say, ‘Here’s a song that we just wrote. I hope you like it.'” Well now, you have already gotten them to accept you, by doing something that they like. Now, you’re going to ask them to listen to something that you wrote. And then you introduce your song. And then go back to another song that they can recognize, about two of them, then introduce another one of your songs. And if your songs are really good, and you can play them as good as you did the songs that the recognized, you’re on your way. Because you can keep on introducing, introducing, introducing.
But if you were to get up on that stage, and I learned this in Las Vegas, Reno, and Tahoe, when I performed for like seventeen years, I learned that you’re only as good as your first song and your last song. And you can crap in the middle. Because it’s how you introduce yourself, with the song that you’re playing, that make people say, “Wow!” And then you can go up and down through your show, and if you think you’re starting to lose a little bit, then you pull out your big guns for the ending. And you build it up for that ending. That’s what they’re going to walk away talking about.
So, you get a kid who plays an instrument, to answer your question, and have him start playing and find somebody else who’s clean like he is, or she, and you start building the entourage around you on the stage. So you find a drummer, find a bass player, and if you play the guitar then you need a singer. And that’s what you need. So you don’t need a whole bunch of other stuff. Everybody’s playing the same way, like I explained in the first place about the rhythm, you’re going to sound so full.
Then there is your appearance on stage. How you present yourself, and your musicians present themselves, and how they all coincide with you. When you make a move in a certain thing have them be right there and have them doing the same movement, things like that. Don’t be a fiddlestick and just stand there and pick. If you’re going to pick something, do your body right into that ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four ONE-two-three-four, and the people… For instance, if I stood there and I just did a solo, I went DIG-a-dig-a DUG-a-dig-a DIG-a-dig-a DA, like that, if I just stood there and they’re looking at you, a picture’s worth ten thousand words. If you are looking at me and I do that, you’re not even going to move. But if you’re looking at me and I take my guitar and I go DIG-a-dig-a DA like that. [Pause] Hello?
DD: I knocked the phone. I jammed my body when I was doing that. If I did that, you would take your whole body and blow yourself back, right?
DD: Because you’d look at me coming at you with my guitar, with the notes and the cringing, and you’d feel what I’m doing. And you learn to do that. Your instrument becomes a part of your body. And when you do things like that, it makes people walk away talking about it. So there are the things. Once again, surround yourself with clean, clean people, and humble people that will say “Thank you, ma’am”, and open the door for somebody or help somebody carry a suitcase. Just don’t think about yourself. These are the things that make a person. A lot of times when kids come up to me and say, “Geez, how do you play like that?” I say, “Sit down, son, let me cleanse your soul” [laughs].
So that’s basically it. And my wife is the same way. She helps people, she is so personal. She’s very humble, and once again she’s the reason why I’m on this Earth today. And she’s been around people. Johnny Cash used to sit her on his lap and have her sing with him, when she was a little girl. She used to work with Johnny. She’s helped people like Ricardo Montalban, she took care of Orson Welles in the hospital. He wouldn’t let anybody touch him except her, because she was trained by a World War II nurse, very strict about everything. She was meticulous, and that’s why he wouldn’t let anyone else touch him. Cesar Romero. She started writing to Doris Day when she was three, and Doris still writes to her as we speak today, and they’re very close. Joan Fontaine. [Lana in the background: He's too young to know all these people.]
JM: I know some of these names, at least [laughs]. But it sounds like you’re in good hands, which is great.
DD: Lana is into filmmaking, and all of the old films and everything. We enjoy everything together. That’s why it’s taken so many years for the two of us to come together. She had over 13,000 films, and she gave half of them away to the colleges so they could learn. And she was teaching at the colleges. She did over a hundred plays, Gone With the Wind, Joan of Arc, all of those, back in St. Petersburg, Florida. And once again, she was never married.
OK, I’ll tell you something. They want to do a movie. We’ve been offered about four times to do a movie of this. When she was two years old her father was killed on the railroad tracks. She was taking care of her mom, and she was stirring soup, standing on a box. They were very poor. But her mother was given a Dick Dale album called Tiger’s Loose, with me with the tiger across my lap, and he gave it to Lana. And Lana looked at the cover, and then she told her mom, because she loves animals so much… She feeds half a dozen coyotes here every day. They come to her, and bring their babies to her. She’s been doing it for the last ten, twelve years. And they call her, she sits right with them. The same way we get a hundred ravens here. We’ve got a thousand doves. It’s like a fantasy land, and Lana’s out there feeding them around the clock. Well, Lana turned around and looked at the album, and looked into my eyes, because I was looking straight out like my tiger was, and she told her mother at two or three… She was very different. She was given a gift. And she told her mother when she was two years old, “Mommy, one day I’m going to be with him the rest of my life.” At that age.
And she never got married. She never had boyfriends. She always took care of people. She wanted to save the world. That’s what she told her mom. But she never contacted me, because I had been married. It was a very horrific marriage. And after I had been divorced, and I found out I had the cancer, and I had it when I was twenty, her angel that she talks to, St. Bernadette, because she was going to be a nun, she said I was dying. She told her mother, and then her mother said to contact me, and she did through email. And we did email. I was still on tour, I was in pain. I had gone through all of the operations. I was in Europe for a couple of months, and we started talking on the phone. We learned how to do that. And for eleven months, ten hours a day. [Lana in the background: Nineteen months!] Oh, excuse me, nineteen months. She has a brain like a dictionary!
But anyway, for nineteen months for ten hours a day, she kept me going. And then when I got back home we learned about Skype, and she could see me, how I shook. And she said, “I can’t let you die. I’ve loved you since I was two years old.” And so what happened was her angel told her, “Go”, which she has never done, “and do a scratch-off [lottery ticket].” And she did a scratch-off, won over four hundred dollars, and she got on a plane and came to me. And saved my life. And we’ve been together ever since.
I was never in love, because they didn’t love me. They were just along for the ride. And love, to me, comes from different actions. Say you have a girlfriend or a mate, and they do something on a Sunday, a Wednesday, and a Saturday. You go, “Oh, thank you very much. Isn’t that nice?” But when a person does something for you Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, like that, twenty-four hours a day they dedicate their life to you. They cook for you, they massage you, they take your temperature, they worry about… There isn’t a thing they want you to do, they do it for you. Twenty-four hours a day. That’s dedication. That is what love is. True love. Love that comes from the respect that you give that person, them giving their life to you. And in turn you do the same to them.
She had never been married, and I never wanted to be married. That was another story, and I was coerced, you might say, into it. But the point is, I didn’t discover true love until Lana came into my life. Because of what she has done for me for the last thirteen years, you know what I’m saying? What took us so long? We’re a couple of sickies taking care of each other. But the point is, to have these years, these ending type of years, to be the greatest feeling. We don’t leave each other’s sight. We’re never out of each other’s sight. She’ll go into town to get food, and I’ll go with her at times. But I don’t go out and play pool with the guys or play cards with the guys, and she doesn’t go out… We never leave each other’s sight. We’re very, very, very close.
What we’ve done is we’ve gotten rid of all the people who were thieves and all this who worked for us at the time. And we run everything ourselves. We do it all ourselves. That’s that.
She [Lana] said she had a good feeling about you. She’s what they call a “sensitive”, and I won’t go into that. Look it up on a computer. They’re ten times more powerful than a medium. And she’s been that way all her life, and she can see people, read people, the whole complete works. And I’ve been able to do that from just plain experience, making mistakes in life [laughs]. And that’s what we do. Everybody has intelligence. Monkeys have intelligence. They’ll put a ladder up and get a banana if it’s there. But the thing is, what controls intelligence? One word – it’s wisdom. That comes from making all the mistakes your intelligence has had you go down these different roads, thinking they were the right ones, and you find out you’re getting screwed blued and tattooed. Well, you learn not to go back down those roads again, and that gives you wisdom. And that’s basically it. I learned my stuff from wisdom, but she learns hers from her sensitivity that she has within herself. So anyhow, she came to me, and we’ve been together ever since.
JM: I think it would make a good movie. And it’d have a killer soundtrack, too!
DD: Yeah [laughs].
Lana [from the background]: Tell him that we went to Hawaii to get married, and you were the one. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. You never asked me. You just said we were going to Hawaii. It was fifteen years, not thirteen. You bought the ring, you bought the wedding dress.
DD: I did everything without her knowing it. And I never did that with anybody. I was basically told to get married, you would say. With Lana, it was me who was the one who put it all together without her knowing it. And Hawaii was my home, because I’d lived there, surfed there. That was my whole life. And guess what? When I got Hawaiian heirloom rings – these things are like over two hundred and something years old, and it was given to Queen Kapiolani, and they put their names in Hawaiian in the gold band, they carved their names in. They also engraved plumeria flowers, which is my favorite flower of the islands, and if you’ve ever been there before you can smell the fragrance around the clock from the trade winds. That’s why Hawaii has been my life, also. And surfing sun-up to sun-down, there.
My name in Hawaiian is Likeke. So you’ve got all the Hawaiian names for the English names. Dick is Likeke. So I said, let’s see what it says for Lana. So I go and I take the English name Lana, and lo and behold it’s the Hawaiian name. It’s the only name that’s Lana.
We’re taking the time to rest up to be able to make it through, which I will, the concerts that we’re going to do. We’ll have a whole bunch of merch there, including my shirt that says “Your Body Follows Your Mind”. Some people understand that, and some people don’t.
JM: I do have to ask you about Jimi Hendrix, and what interactions you had with him?
DD: Well, I first found Jimi when I went to see Little Richard. This was in the late 50’s. I had gone into Pasadena, in a little club to see Little Richard on my night off from playing. And Jimi Hendrix – he wasn’t Jimi Hendrix then – he was the bass player for Little Richard. Then he’d come to see me, and he’d ask me how I did… He was a very, very nice, quiet kid. But he got sucked into drugs. He fell into that scene. But he didn’t fall into the scene while I was teaching him stuff. And he’s left-handed like me, and held the guitar like I did. But he strung it as a true left-hander. I play a right-handed guitar upside down. That was the difference. I would show him all of my slides.
JM: Yeah, absolutely.
DD: You never heard the rest of the sentence, though. The way the media works, and that’s the reason that I don’t like to talk. I did this only because of Lana, there was a feeling that she got about you. So that’s why I’m talking to you.
JM: I’m happy to hear that.
DD: I just don’t do them anymore. We charge for all interviews. But anyway, here’s what happened. He was recording, and Jimi said, “Hey man, Dick Dale did a no-show.” I got a band to take my place. And his guitar player said, “No, man, they gave him three months to live.” I hadn’t gotten the operation. And they were screwing around when they were recording, joking, laughing, doing things. And then he said “I heard Dick Dale did a no-show.” But he said, “I bet that’s a big lie”. Now, I have that on tape. It was given to me. They cut it off. So that’s the story on that.
Now, Buddy Miles was his drummer. Buddy opened for me, and before he got me onstage, he said, “I want everybody to know”, he was really funny, he said, “a day didn’t go by that Jimi didn’t say ‘I got my best shit from Dick Dale'”. So, that’s the Dick Dale / Jimi Hendrix story.
And then he got into the bad side of life.
JM: We’re happy that at least one of you is still with us.
DD: Well, the same thing with Keith Moon. I mean, he came up to me when I was playing in Hollywood, at the microphone, and he grabbed the microphone while I was singing. It was Keith Moon of The Who. And I said, “Who?” A little bit of Abbott and Costello. I didn’t know who bands were, because I never hung around with them. I would throw them out of my dressing room if they were drinking or smoking, like that. When I got through performing, I never went to parties. I didn’t go to their parties because I don’t drink or do drugs. I would just go straight home and go surfing and feed my animals. I was a surf bum, and I rode my motorcycle.
So he says, “I’ve got $85,000 in this album of mine, I’ve got Ringo. If you don’t do it I’m going to junk the bloody thing.” He says, “Come over to my party.” And I said, “No, I don’t do that shit.” I’ll go and do your album, and I’ll meet you at the studio. And the band was going, “That’s Keith Moon, that’s Keith Moon!” They were in my dressing room, and said, “Maybe he won’t like what you record.” I go, “I don’t give a shit what he likes!” I don’t do that crap. And I’m from Boston, I tell it like it is.
So, anyway, he came the next night and got back on the stage while I was performing again. But anyway, what happened was I went and did the session, and then he collapsed because he was stoned, we finished it up for him. That was Two Sides of the Moon. That was the last album he did. And then I get a goddamn phone call saying that he was dead.
They called me up to tell me Elvis died. They were going to interview me because Elvis and I used to ride up and down Hollywood Boulevard in a Stutz Bearcat. Cops would pull him over and go, “Oh, it’s you! You want a manager?” And he goes “Thank you very much”.
What I did was, the last concert tour, because of my wife’s insistence, I always end with… no playlist ever, I just go off the top of my head. But I always end with “Amazing Grace” and I dedicate it to all our troops, dedicate it to all the firefighters. Because I was in the crash crew in the Air Force. Dedicate it to all the policemen.
JM: I do remember that from when I saw you in 2009. My favorite hymn.
DD: Guess what? We recorded it at Sun Studios. The only time we could do it was when we were leaving in the morning for the next gig, about five hours away. And I called up the engineer, and he said, “Dick, we’ve got to do it!” I had to be there at eight o’clock in the morning. We didn’t leave the gig the night before until about three o’clock in the morning, and we get to the hotel and we have to get up, like at seven [laughs]. So we recorded “Amazing Grace”. We have it in our files, and we’ll put it on a CD. Lana has photos of me playing there, which is cool. Sun Studios, the most historic recording studio in the world.