100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks

From Jerry Garcia and Joan Jett to B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone critic chooses the best and most influential guitarists in rock

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Dick Dale

31. Dick Dale

Dick Dale reigns across the decades as the undisputed king of the surf guitar. In Dale's own words, "Real surfing music is instrumental, characterized by heavy staccato picking on a Fender Stratocaster guitar." Moreover, it's best played through a Fender Showman Amp — a model built to spec for Dale by Leo Fender himself. Igniting California's surfing cult with such regional hits as "Let's Go Trip-pin'," "Surf Beat" and "Miserlou," Dale made waves with his fat, edgy sound and aggressive, proto-metal attack. "Miserlou," released in 1962, marked the first use of a Fender reverb unit — creating an underwater sound with lots of echo — on a popular record. Fittingly, it sparked a surf-music revival when director Quentin Tarantino used it in the opening scene of Pulp Fiction.

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