As he drives through the Southwest during our phone call, Dick Dale is not pleased with my first question. "Have you done any research at all on me?" he says.
Of course I know all about the king of surf guitar, whose fast scales captured the Zeitgeist of the beach culture of the '60s and who made a comeback when Quentin Tarantino borrowed his "Misirlou" in the classic film Pulp Fiction.
Dale's career has spanned rock music's most glorious eras, and I want to know everything — how he landed on his distinctive sound, what it was like having Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys open up for him, and more about his claims of teaching Jimi Hendrix how to play slide guitar.
But when I start off with the icebreaker question of "When did you first fall in love with music?" Dale is not pleased. "Everyone knows the history of Dick Dale," he says. "I prefer not to talk about things I've already talked about."
Instead, for a half-hour, he steers our conversation toward his ill health, his love for his wife Lana Dale, and his admiration for Donald Trump. His never-ending tour, which brings him to Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room May 20, Dale says, isn't borne just out of passion; it's the only thing keeping his 79-year-old body alive.
"I've been dealing with cancer for years," he explains. "They told me three times I wasn't going to live. I have to come up with $3,000 every single month to pay the insurance to keep myself alive. I'll never be able to stop touring."
Dale's grateful his wife Lana is with him every step of the way. As he answers my questions, he often asks her feedback. "We're a two-person team," he says. "She handles the management and the publicity. We keep all the money grubbers away from us." He says a publication he can't remember the name of listed Lana as one of the world's five best publicists, and also says she is the only modern-day singer he can listen to.
"There's no pretty music anymore. There's no emotion in it. When Lana sings me to sleep, she sounds like music from the '30s."
And it's not just the music Dale prefers from back in the day. "Things were much better back then, you didn't have a deficit," he says. "The greedy, money-hungry people that run this government now, that's why they don't want Donald Trump near them. They're scared he'll come in and kick out the freeloaders. Trump isn't going to take that crap."
But Dale leaves politics out of his guitar playing, which after nearly 60 years is still beautifully exhilarating. "People see me on stage and they say, 'How does he do it?' On my days off, they've had to feed me intravenously and I've had to do some shows sitting on a stool. But when I look out at the audience, I always get my strength back."
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $30 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.
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