BY FRANK DE BLASE
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to meet and play with some of my guitar heroes. Some of them are original cats from rock ’n’ roll’s first wave, like Ike Turner, Ronnie Dawson, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and Friday night’s star attraction at Water Street Music Hall, surf-guitar innovator, godfather, legend Dick Dale. It’s been a tres cool trip meeting all these guys, but over the years I’ve noticed a disconnect. You tell on of these guitarists he’s a hero, or how you wore the grooves off their record and off your fingertips — until both melted and bled — learning how to play like them, and they just kind of look at you. I mean, they’ve all been cordial and appreciative, but they don’t quite get it. You see, in many cases these guitarists were the creators of their style and its sound. Whether by accident or out of shear genius, they created it without outside influence. These heroes had no heroes.
Dick Dale is one of those hero-less heroes, and stands majestically as one of the greatest guitar players of all time.
Water Street Music Hall was packed and electrified by the time Tombstone Hands finished its rough and trashy set. Dale’s guitar reverberated loud and urgent from off stage like a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a hard-on. And by the time he was on stage, he and his band (which included his son Jimmy Dale on drums) were full bore into a full-tilt, breakneck version of “Nitro.” The crowd went wild and stayed wild. Dale still amplifies through vintage Fender tweed and his sound was magnificently huge. Punctuating his set with stream-of-conscious standards like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Summertime Blues,” Dale tore up and down his neck like a rabid surfer. Or like the guitar hero that he is — and never had.