The surf guitar legend continues to talk, this time about monks, Johnny Cash, the gift, Eisenhower, and Wild Bill Hickok.

dick dale cover art
The album cover that changed Dick Dale's life

Dick Dale is now 74, and on the phone recently, he held court for 65 minutes without pause to talk about his life, his career, his wife, and a host of topics I never expected him to get to. Dale will play The Howlin’ Wolf Monday night with Mahayla opening, and today we present the second installment of what Dale said in his monologue. He picks up talking about monks and in the space of 15 minutes ranges to talk about his health, his wife, Jesse James, Joe DiMaggio’s mother, and cigarettes among other things. Suffice it to say that he sees the interconnectedness of things.

As I said, There are references that I would have followed up on if Dale’s stream of consciousness wasn’t more of a raging river, and there are a few details that I can’t independently verify. I’ve left both because these details are a part of his reality, and they help make this a portrait real. Thanks to Emily Tonn and Raphael Helfand for transcribing this.

My Spilt Milk has two pairs of tickets to see Dick Dale at The Howlin’ Wolf. Register here for a chance to win. 

"The monks live with Mother Nature, the animals, everything. The gardening that they plant, they eat, and when they do a gesture for someone like make wooden statue or a bowl, whatever they would make, they just present it. They don’t say, Here, I wanna give you a gift. Words are useless energy. People will not understand what you’re saying in the first place, so use your eyes, your ears, and your taste to maintain yourself and your mind and your body. By doing all of this stuff like that, I have changed my life. The monk will give the gift, and the other monk will just bow and smile, and then when he walks away. Maybe weeks or a month later, the monk that gave, or received the gift, he gives a gift of a bowl or something, and the other one bows and smiles. That’s the way they say thank you.  

That is more powerful than words because words are tools of the devil, because they can be taken the wrong way. “Buddha” only means “wise man,” and Buddha said, Don’t allow toys to take your mind over. He should’ve explained that. Frank and Jesse, they—say they had both beautiful 40-foot yachts. They would go to Catalina every time and come back, and they would buy each other gifts for their vessels and give them back and forth. But, when Jesse hit it rich because he worked so extra hard, he got a hundred-foot yacht, and when it’s a hundred-foot, it’s called a ship. His friend started hating him because he knew he would never be able to get one of those. Instead of saying, Gee, Jesse, I really envy you that you were able to get that hundred-foot yacht, but I know that you worked hard for it, and I know that you’re gonna take me for rides on it. And man, when I get out there, I’ll swab the decks and do anything to help you maintain it.  But people don’t do that.  People resent and they become jealous, and they can do evil things.  So instead of giving credit for somebody working hard, they attack.  

These are the things that children when they’re born they should be taught, and they’re not taught this. A baby will be given a little doll to play with, and the baby’s parents will put it in the cage with them. Then all of a sudden it picks up the doll and the other baby who owns the doll goes, That’s mine! It’s mine! That’s when the mother should step in and the father should step in and say, We share. Share it with your friend and give them joy and happiness. Things like that, so the doll becomes the bicycle—It’s mine, it’s mine—and the bicycle becomes the girlfriend, girlfriend becomes the wife.

It’s the way. It’s called the possession, and that’s what people don’t understand—what true love is—and when they even ask me that question, I tell them that there was a time in my life that I never loved anybody because they didn’t love me. I was always along for the ride, but when somebody does something for you on a Monday or a Wednesday and you say, Gee, thank you so much. That was nice of you to take that time and do that for me. But then when somebody does something Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday without ever asking for something in return, wanting to be a part of your soul and your life and to nourish you and to be a part of you, you must respect when someone devotes their life to you, and that constitutes love. 

So that’s what my wife has been to me since she was sent to me. She’s saved my life more than once especially with my cancer. I collapsed in a parking lot and was laying on the ground for an hour with emergency, and then they took me into emergency. I was laying on a gurney, and my wife was by my side for 12 hours while the doctors were trying to figure out why, looking at the screens. My wife, Lana, who was born with a gift, she walked up and said, Gentlemen, I don’t mean to disturb you—she’s angelic when she speaks—and she says, May I see your screen? The minute she saw the screen--I’m telling you, within seconds—she said, Gentlemen, he has three fistulas—One, two, three--do you see them? These are holes caused by the radiation that I went through. They said Oh my God! Oh my God! Get the chopper and get him down to the Eisenhower Hospital right away. We’re going to lose him! And then she said, No, I’m taking him back up into surgery in Beverly Hills, and we drove all night, through the morning to get there and then I had to wait on a table because they didn’t have an extra room. We waited a week to get our own room, and Lana, she had to take a bath in a sink, like a GI bath because they had no shower in the room. She stood by my side every day and every night. They want to make a movie out of this whole story and it’s called The Love Story, but it even goes further than that. 

When she was two years old, her real father and his children were hit by a train, and their grandmother, who was full-blooded Cherokee, raised her. Her relatives are very closely related to Jesse James, the younger family to Eisenhower. In fact, President Eisenhower gave me a Letter of Commendation for Bravery when I was in the Air Force.

That’s another story, but it’s a cycle. They brought her grandfather over from Wales cause he was the best horseshoer—it’s called a farrier—and that was a Wild Bill [Hickok] Show. He took care of all their horses, and he drove a wagon in The Wild Bill Show. Her grandfather had five of Jesse James’ guns, pistols, which he sold because he was an alcoholic. He sold them to the museum in Minneapolis, and that’s crazy because I did a CD that they were auctioning offfor the people who were killed on the bridge when it collapsed in Minnesota, and here is her great-grandfather selling his guns to the museum in Minnesota. It’s such a complete circle. 

When she was two years old they were very poor, and her mother and brother bought an album with a picture of a tiger and me on the cover, The Tiger’s Loose. Little Lana loved animals so much she wanted to save the world, and she wanted to become a nun, and she turned around, looked at the album, and she said, Mommy, look at the tiger’s eyes. She didn’t know who Dick Dale was and she said, And look at his eyes. Oh my God, mommy. Then she was stared, and the gift she was given when she was born—and I don’t want to get into that; she doesn’t like to talk about it. She said they’ll put you in a loony house—she said, Mommy, one day I’m going to be with him for the rest of my life. She had never contacted me. She respected that at the time I was in a marriage, and it was a horrific, horrific, marriage thing.

When it was over and I was actually dying from the holes in my body, infecting my body. I was on tour in Europe and the pain I was going through was beyond belief. I was still performing, and they had to carry me out of my car and carry me onto the stage and put me in a chair and I performed, and that happened here back in the US. She went through her life trying to heal people and take care of people. She took care of Joe DiMaggio’s mother, and when Joe DiMaggio brought her there, she used to sit on Johnny Cash’s lap for about four months and sing onstage with him and June, and Johnny wanted to adopt her because she is Cherokee and he thought she was the greatest little creature. Red Skelton used to ask her to sit with her, he loved her, and he gave her one of his painting to help him. She ran without signing autographs and things, and she ran five dealerships for the Palestinians and cooked for them, so she has such a history, unbelievably helping people.

One day, her angel came to her and told her that I was dying, and she told her mother and her mother said to contact me. She had never contacted me all through her years, and she contacted me and we spoke on the email. Then she kept me going and we spoke over the phone, and as a nurse she kept telling me to go to sleep, talking for me, and did that for a couple of years. Then her angel said that I was, and the doctors said I would never make it off the table--and Lana said she’s loved ever since--she never had boyfriends--she used to tell Johnny Cash that I’m saving my life for Dick Dale, she used to tell Orson WellesI’m saving my life for Dick Dale, and he would all say, He’s just a musicians. Musicians are no good!

Her father didn’t like any musicians, either. That changed when he saw how I reacted to people smoking cigarettes in front of me. I used to just take them out and stomp them on the ground, and I used to say, Don’t smoke that shit in front of me. Her father used to say, That’s a real man." 

Part One, on his health, Liberace, Las Vegas, the Dalai Lama, and being quiet

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