Dick Dale, the guitarist fondly known as the “King of Surf Guitar,” passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. His death was confirmed to The Guardian by his touring bassist, Sam Bolle.

While his career took off more than 50 years ago with ubiquitous songs like “Let’s Go Trippin'” and his take on “Misirlou” in the early 60s, Dale continued to perform live up until his death. Despite various serious health problems in his later years, Dick Dale consistently played through the pain, with tour dates scheduled throughout this year.

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones – “Let’s Go Trippin'”

[Video: sandancapistrano]

Dale, born Richard Anthony Mansour, helped shape the sound that would become surf rock, utilizing Middle Eastern and Mexican musical influences, and reverb to create a unique approach to the electric guitar. He was also known for his fast, loud playing and his unusual way of holding his guitar. A left-handed player, Dale played a right-handed guitar turned upside down. He also used unusually heavy strings and picks to go along with his frenetic playing style, adding to the distinct quality of his signature sound. As Leo Fender once said of testing new equipment, “When it can withstand the barrage of punishment from Dick Dale, then it is fit for human consumption.”

Dale also worked closely with Fender to produce and fine-tune their amplifier technology. After frequently blowing out several of his 10-watt amps, he inspired Fender to create the first 85-watt transformer, which peaked at 100 watts. According to Fender, Dale once described this innovation as being “like going from a little VW Bug to a Testarossa.” Dale’s unique combination of powerful equipment, lightning-fast staccato picking and heavy-gauge strings led many to call him the “Father of Heavy Metal.” Dale also enjoyed a late-career spike in popularity when his “Misirlou” was used as the theme song on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction in 1994.

Pulp Fiction – Opening Scene/”Misirlou” Theme Song – Dick Dale

[Video: IsrFur89]

For good measure, you can also watch a video of Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan performing surf rock classic “Pipeline” from 1987 comedy Back To The Beach below:

Dick Dale, Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Pipeline”

[Video: ClassicVideos80s]

Rest in Peace, Dick Dale.