Dick Dale — a Guitar Player Certified Legend Award honoree and the inventor of surf guitar — has been blowing people's minds with his tonal onslaughts and fierce stage shows since 1955. But the celebration of his 60 years in the music business is fraught with serious health difficulties that would keep a lesser mortal bedridden, rather than embarking on a 25-city U.S. tour. As a result, there's a reason for the trek that goes beyond bringing his loud, raucous, and joyful music to fans.
“I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive,” Dale said to Pittsburgh City Paper reporter Charlie Deitch. “I can’t stop touring, because I will die. Physically and literally, I will die.”
Dale, 78, is a two-time rectal cancer survivor, and he is currently battling renal failure and diabetes. His wife, Lana, told GP that much of Dale's present challenges are a result of his past chemotherapy treatments and the colostomy supplies he needs after parts of his stomach and intestines had to be removed.
"They put the bag on his side so he can still play guitar," says "Mrs. Dick Dale," as she likes to be called. "But we found that the Stoma patch needs to be changed at least daily — rather than every six or seven days — so we are using more supplies than health insurance allows."
Dale himself put it more bluntly in his Pittsburgh City Paper interview: “The hospital says change your patch once a week. No! If you don’t change that patch two times a day, the fecal matter eats through your flesh and causes the nerves to rot and they turn black, and the pain is so excruciating that you can’t let anything touch it.”
In addition to the hopeful tour revenue, the Dales are also selling his 62' yacht through his website. It's not specifically stated that the sale is to deal with medical costs, but you can read between the lines here.
When the story first broke today, former GP marketing director Christen McFarland — who now works for the Grammys — asked to be put in touch with Dale's team so that MusiCares (the charitable arm of the Grammys that helps musicians in need) could possibly offer assistance. Fingers are crossed that some relief can be sent his way.
"We really appreciate all the press and media outreach," says Mrs. Dale (who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and is one tough lady herself). "Dick is my life, of course, but he is so important to guitar players and the guitar and music in general. We're so grateful for all the concern and care."
During Guitar Player's long relationship with Dale, he has proven himself to be not just a master of the guitar, but also a caring yet brutally honest person with a signature toughness and ferocity. Watch the video below from earlier this year, and tell me if you see evidence of a sick and pain-wracked performer two years away from his 80th birthday?
Dick Dale is a national treasure. Let's wish him well and hope for better days ahead, health-wise.
"When I go on stage, I’m in pain every night," Dale told the Pittsburgh City Paper, "but through the martial arts, I’ve learned to guide and deal with pain. I play harder now than I ever have. When I go on stage, I swear at the pain, 'Get out of my damn body—I’ve got to do a job!' I intend to go out onstage in an explosion of body parts."
Dick Dale & Stevie Ray Vaughan "Pipelining" for the 1987 film Back to the Beach
The 78-Year-Old Rocking Like a Maniac in April 2015