This past weekend turned out to be a double whammy of grief for roots music lovers. We lost the Godfather of Surf Guitar Dick Dale on Saturday March 16th and R&B Legend Andre Williams on the 17th.
Dick Dale was born in Boston in 1937, his family moved to California when he was 17. He began playing musical instruments as a child; moving from piano to trumpet to ukulele and tarabaki before the guitar. His father was Lebonese & he cited the tarabaki and Arabic music as strong influences on his playing style. That style was a mixture of rhythm and lead played left-handed on a guitar strung for a right-handed musician. He tested equipment for Leo Fender. After blowing up several amps by playing too loud, a custom 15-inch loudspeaker was made. That amp is now the JBL-D130F model, more commonly known as the Fender Single Showman Amp.
Dale’s health and the British Invasion lead him into early retirement from music. He became an environmental activist after a pollution related infection nearly too his leg in the late 70s. He began recording and touring again in the 1980s, was nominated for a grammy in 1986. He appeared in 1987’s Back to the Beach playing Pipeline with Stevie Ray Vaughan. And in 1994 was discovered by a new generation of fans thanks to his song Misrilou being featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Dale continued to have health issues which lead to his having to keep touring in order to stay on top of his medical bills. He had tour dates scheduled through November of this year at the time of his death. He was 81.
Andre Williams was born in Bessemer Alabama in 1936. He moved to Detroit at 16 where he befriended the owners of Fortune Records. He found success with singles like Bacon Fat and Jail Bait; with Bacon Fat hitting #9 on the R&B Chart in 1957.
He co-wrote Thank You For Loving Me for Stevie Wonder in 1963 as well as penning Shake a Tail Feather, a hit for The Five Duo-Tones. Shake a Tail Feather was also recorded by Ike & Tina Turner as well as James & Bobby Purify who went to #25 on the Hot 100 with it in 1967.
In 1968 he signed to Chicago’s Chess Records and hit #46 on the R&B chart with Cadillac Jack. The 1970s saw Williams write songs for Parliament and produce Ike Turner. The 1980s were particularly bleak for Williams, as his drug addiction took its toll, he eventually found himself homeless.
By 1995 Williams had returned to recording and touring, releasing an album of new renditions of his earliest releases, Mr. Rhythm in 1996. He continued to tour, a lot in Europe, and record through the 1990s and 2000s.
Andre Williams was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away after 2 weeks in hospice care in Chicago. He was 82.
On a personal note, I was able to see both Dick Dale and Andre Williams perform live on multiple occasions, they never failed to rock my face off.