Dick Dale wasn’t just famous nationally, he was a local celebrity, too. He passed this last Saturday from unreleased causes, after solidifying his place in history with his invention of “surf guitaring”, which also led to an unexpected genre of music: heavy metal.
Dale was a local Wedge guy, and lived in the last house near the Wedge (the “Rigley Brothers House”) for many years– and the stories of him walking his pet tigers down the beaches and sidewalks of the peninsula are 100% true.
Dale shared his love of music in Newports most historically influential venue, the legendary Rendezvous Ballroom, which sat where condos now face the ocean over the parking lot at Balboa Pier, which permanently closed after being lost to its second “mysterious couch fire” in 1966. He shared the stage there with other famous acts, including Newports famous Righteous Brothers, Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, the Chantays, Surfaris, and the Del-Tones.
Dale, always one for a conversation, once described himself by saying “if you ask me for the time, I’ll tell you how a clock works”.
While a cause of death has yet to be made public, Dale was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 1965, at only 28 years of age. Doctors told him that he would die within a matter of months without aggressive surgery. The treatment took him from 158lbs to just 98lbs and drained his bank account. He moved to Hawaii for several years, shying away from his most passionate of hobbies: music.
But Dale returned, and simultaneously continued to battle the disease. Up until the end of his life, Dale was explicit that he toured to fund his treatment.
In 2015, get told the Pittsburgh City Paper “I can’t stop touring because I will die. Physically and literally, I will die,” and “Sure, I’d love to stay home and build ships in a bottle and spend time with my wife in Hawaii, but I have to perform to save my life.”
Dale’s contributions to music and our local history will never be forgotten. May he rest in peace. Hawaii or not– he will always be a Balboa Peninsula local.