Free, 8 p.m., July 17. The Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, mohegansun.com
In 1963, Life magazine ran a story about Dick Dale — a piece that was intriguing enough to secure its subject an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The article concerned "a thumping teenage idol who is part evangelist, part Pied Piper and all success" and mentioned a handful of his peculiarities and mottos. "Liquor, short pants, fights and Capri slacks for girls are banned from the ballroom when Dick Dale plays. He refuses to issue pass-out tickets, thus preventing forays to the parking lot for nips and necking. He ends each performance with a spiritual, often interrupts his playing to hand out advice: 'You must believe in treating the other person just like you'd want him to treat you.' He also says: 'You must learn humility' and takes his own advice, permitting no applause after his numbers."
While the humility aspect is very much up for contention, little has changed about Dale's taste for discussing his rules and philosophies. In June, I called Dale at his residence in Twentynine Palms, Calif., for what I figured would be a relatively ordinary phone interview with a few spicy quotes. Although I didn't pick up on it, he hinted as to what I was in for after I asked how much time he had to speak. He sighed and said, "Why?" I said, good-naturedly, it was because I had thousands of things to ask him. "Well, the only problem is when you ask me what time it is, I usually end up telling you how to build a clock." Truly prescient words.
Over two-hours-plus, the 75-year-old fleet-fingered guitarist born Richard Monsour told me everything I would have ever wanted to know about him, even though I only asked about eight questions. He brought up white blood cells, monks, his private airport hangar, his interest in exotic animals, the love he's had for the martial arts since his teens, and the clean-cut lifestyle he demands of himself and those who work with him. (No drinking if you expect to tour with him.) In the process of answering questions, he's prone to bringing in unexpected guests: Andre the Giant (his wife designed the first of Dick Dale's oft-used headbands), Jimi Hendrix (whom Dale saw playing bass for Little Richard in a tiny bar in Pasadena, Calif.) and Colonel Parker, the brilliant manager who oversaw Elvis' career. The last subject came up when Dale explained why he talks about himself in the third person. "[Journalists] say, 'Oh, he talks in the third person.' Well, I hate to use 'I this, I that,' and then people go, 'Well, he claims to have done this.' That's why I don't do interviews, to tell you the truth. They create their own fantasies anyway and they write what they want. Colonel Parker used to say, 'When the press came to see Elvis, I made them pay to get in because I told them, 'You're going to write shit about him anyway.''"
From a performance standpoint, who could write shit about Dale? Decades ago, fans of surf rock gave him the title "King of the Surf Guitar," and in the decades since, he's proven his durability and capability as a performer and writer in that niche. Dale's style is typified by him staccato strumming a Stratocaster alongside the perfect dose of reverb — enough to make you feel like you're riding the curve of a sumptuous wave instead of drowning in the wake. He's best known for his interpretation of "Misirlou," a traditional Greek folk song, which opened 1994's Pulp Fiction. But that hit aside, his discography is filled with blazing, smart instrumentals such as "Nitro," "Surf Beat" and "Mexico." He occasionally sings and plays other styles of music during shows, but he has and always will be best associated with surf rock's tremendous tremors. He'd never dare let you forget his contributions either, as he talks with great, boastful enthusiasm about conquering crowds, amplifiers and everything else in his way. "Then, the records, the CDs — all that stuff speaks for itself. That's about it on that," he said. "I hope people just remember that they had a great time when they came to a Dick Dale concert because they did."
But here's the thing: As exhausting as it occasionally was to talk to (or, more accurately, listen to) Dale speak for so long on whatever came to mind, he also grew immensely revealing and, in the process, showed his nuances. Dale repeatedly talked about his son (Jimmy) and wife (Lana) with genuine affection. When he went into surprising grisly detail about his medical issues (after multiple cases of cancer, he's currently dealing with a severe case of diabetes), the surf rock legend showed that his confidence, stubbornness and other quirks can be lovable and sweet, too. "I can talk about [my diabetes] and explain everything that's going on with me and make it so that we're not laying there going, 'Oh, woe is me' and 'Oh my God, my life is over' and all that bullshit. I don't do that. I never have and I never will, so I try to teach people how to think the same way — how to live for life and do things for other people, and when you're doing things for other people, you don't think about the shit that you're going through, you follow what I mean?" he said. "That's what I'm here for."