Top Classifieds

Best known for his blazing electric guitar runs on his ’60s rock ‘n’ roll tunes like “Misirlou,” Dick Dale has long been known as the “King of the Surf Guitar.” But at the age of 73, the surf rock pioneer is now proud to be called “Cancer Warrior.”

In 2008, Dale was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his intestinal tract. following the removal of the tumor and rounds of chemo and radiation treatment, an intestinal leak developed. Dale says this condition recently required doctors to “replumb my whole body.” Kidney and bladder problems have also emerged.

Despite his serious medical challenges and a refusal to embrace pain medications, Dale has continued to perform on stage, and he’s in the midst of a 20-date West Cost tour, which comes to the Blank Club on Saturday.

“The doctors wanted me to go back in for surgery right away because my left kidney is blocked,” Dale said in a phone conversation earlier this month from his 81-acre ranch in Twentynine Palms in Southern California. “It’s dangerous. It’s not getting rid of the fluid properly or fast enough. The operation only requires an overnight stay, but I would have needed three weeks of recovery time.

“I said, ‘Screw that path! I can’t cancel this tour.’ I’m going to have the operation done when I get home.”

Dale is very excited about his current run of shows, which find him teaming up with his 18-year-old son, Jimmy. It’s an acoustic-electric tour featuring the two musicians playing signature guitars that were created for them by the vaunted Fender guitar company.

The guitars are acoustic instruments that can be plugged into amplifiers. Dick Dale’s Malibu model and Jimmy’s Kingman design were the result of the elder Dale’s long-held qualm that the acoustic guitar’s thick body contributes to back problems.

“These new guitars are so neat. for 20 years I’ve been screaming at these guitar companies, saying it’s abnormal to put your arm around an acoustic guitar that is about 6 to 8 inches deep,” he says. “Your arm reaches over and you start to strum and then all of a sudden you get a charley horse in your back. The older you get, the greater the charley horse.”

Dale says the Malibu and Kingman are characterized by compact, 3-inch deep bodies. They also use the neck from Fender’s Stratocaster electric guitar.

“When I first played the guitar without plugging it into an amplifier, the people at Fender were blown away,” Dale says. “They couldn’t believe the sound. I said, ‘See, gentlemen, the world is no longer flat.’ ”

Dale’s relationship with Fender goes back to the ’60s when he developed the Showman amplifier with company founder Leo Fender. The powerful amp grew out of Dale’s desire for a louder, more potent sound. (He says that his quest for maximum volume even led some to call him the father of heavy-metal.)

A daredevil attitude has long been part of Dale’s persona. The chatty and personable guitarist was an avid surfer, and his heavily reverbed guitar tone was partly an attempt to sonically capture the feeling of a surfer riding a big wave. Riding motorcycles, practicing martial arts and piloting his own planes have also been passions in his life.

For years, he operated his own wild animal preserve on his property. He rescued and cared for more than 40 different species of exotic animals — lions, tigers, elephants and birds of prey. however, fearing for Jimmy’s safety, he gave up this cause when his son was a young child.

Dale has not yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he was voted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville last year.

“I could care less about” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he says with a huff. “It’s about politics there. there are so many people who should be in there that aren’t in there. The Musicians Hall of Fame is chosen by thousands of your peers. so it’s the real thing.”

If this tour goes well and he recovers sufficiently from his upcoming kidney surgery, Dale plans on heading back on tour with his formal backing band in 2011. Shout Factory also recently released a retrospective CD of his work called “Guitar Legend: The Very Best of Dick Dale.”

Above all, Dale appears to be relishing his new role as an inspiration to those who are battling cancer.

“People who are dealing with the same thing I’m dealing with, they come to me and they confide in me,” he says of his health challenges. “They say, ‘How do you keep going like that on stage? how do you keep driving yourself?’

“I tell them there are no obstacles in the road. there are just little bumps. You make them laugh. Laughter is the greatest healer.”

<a href=",2005:cluster=, 02 Dec 2010 08:04:52 GMT 00:00″>Top Classifieds

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