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Surf guitar pioneer Dick Dale dies at 81

Guitarist Dick Dale, known as the king of surf rock, died on Saturday. He was 81.

Born Richard Monsour, he taught himself how to play guitar and got his start performing at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, California. He pounded rather than plucked the strings, and was known to shred his guitar picks in the middle of songs. Dick Dale and the Del-Tones appear in several Beach Party movies, and his 1962 hit "Miserlou," adapted from a Middle Eastern folk song, was used decades later in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 cult classic Pulp Fiction. He continued to tour, even as he hit his 80th birthday.

Dale was left handed, and when he met guitar builder Leo Fender, Fender offered to make him a left-handed model in exchange for Dale testing out Fender's new line of guitars and amps. In a 1997 interview with The Associated Press, Dale said he became Fender's "personal guinea pig," and because he played so loudly, he kept blowing up amps. Finally, Fender built the "Dick Dale Dual Showman," a double-sized amp able to keep up with him. Dale had cancer in the 1960s, and it came back in 2015; he also had a severe foot infection in the 1970s, caused by a surfing injury. Dale is survived by his wife, Lana, and son, James. Catherine Garcia