"Cliché" is usually a bad word in music. But in the surf-guitar universe, it's all about the tried-and-true moves: machine-gunned low-string single notes dripping with reverb, chordal flurries descending from the high end, menacing minor-key themes, and sunny Mexicali melodies. The inventor of this lexicon, Dick Dale, has spread the surf gospel from its Southern California dance-club beginnings in the pre-Beatles '60s through the roots and garage-rock revivals of the past two decades. Along the way, Dale has embedded himself in the culture by way of soundtracks for flicks ranging from Pulp Fiction to Marilyn Monroe's Let's Make Love and features in Disneyland spectacles and car and pizza commercials.
Dale essentially conceived the persona of the power-rock guitarist, an image he hasn't shied away from. He was key in the development of Leo Fender's ultimate gift to rock and roll, the Stratocaster. Though the left-handed Dale played the axe upside down, Fender saw him as the Strat's ideal road-tester (along with the amps Dale blew out on a regular basis). Alongside several early-day anthologies, Dale has a smattering of '90s releases, and his kick-ass effort from 2001, Spatial Disorientation, includes a tasty acoustic mini-set within the surf and metal mayhem.