A Very Fine Poem

More Wet Guitar

Weekend Music

Musicians and sound engineers use "wet" and "dry" to mean more and less reverb. What came to be called the "surf" guitar style always featured very heavy reverb. I'm pretty sure the sound predates the association with surf, which seems to have been pretty much originated by Dick Dale in the early 1960s. But Duane Eddy used it in 1958.


The Ventures' "Walk Don't Run" came out in 1960.


Jorgen Ingmann's "Apache" was released in 1961.


I recall hanging around in a pinball arcade at the Birmingham State Fair, not to play the games but so I could hear the jukebox, and in particular wanting to hear this song. I think I may even have gotten up my nerve to put my own nickel in the jukebox for that purpose. At any rate I distinctly remember hearing it there. I was either twelve or thirteen, depending on what time of year it was.

The Ramrods' instrumental version of "Ghost Riders In the Sky" is also from 1961.


Another memory: standing around on the gravel playground at my elementary/junior-high school,  hearing this song in my head and thinking about the title, which moved and fascinated me. As this was the first recording of the song I heard, I had no idea of the lyrics, or even that there were lyrics, but I mused on the marvelous image of the title, and wondered what it might mean. I suppose it was an early experience of the power of poetry.

 And here's the best-known tune by the King of the Surf Guitar, Dick Dale:


If you think that sounds Middle Eastern, you're right. It is in fact a Middle Eastern folk song, and the title means "Egyptian." And "Dick Dale" is Richard Anthony Mansour, born in Boston of a Lebanese father and Polish mother, and he grew up on Lebanese music. He didn't move to California until he was a senior in high school. But he did learn to surf. His Wikipedia biography is interesting.

And here's a very good one I hadn't heard before.



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Excellent selections, one and all. I had not heard of the "wet" vs "dry" terminology, but I certainly like many songs done in the wet style (most of which are also "twangy").

Just for contrast, do you have any examples of similarly good tunes done in the dry style?

Sometimes I think I'm musically unsophisticated, but I just love a simple, straightforward melody, finely performed. Am I right that the late 50s and early 60s was the heyday for this kind of great instrumental? Here are two favorites from back then (both in the wet style, I think):



"Sleepwalk"--hell yeah. One of my favorite songs ever. I sort of remember the other one, too, though I guess it didn't make as big an impression.

Offhand I can't think of anything quite in this vein that isn't pretty wet, because that was sort of a core element. For that matter, offhand I can't think of very many guitar instrumentals at all from this period, but you can certainly hear plenty of non-reverb-ed guitar in the instrumental breaks of songs with vocals. Chuck Berry's sound comes to mind. Or that really fine guitar solo in Rock Around the Clock.

Chet Atkins' sound was mostly or at least more dry, but very melodic. Of course, he also sounded like he was playing two guitars or more at once, which is not what these 'wet" pieces are.

I thought about Chet Atkins, but couldn't recall having heard any radio singles by him back in those days. I may be forgetting something.

These pieces are not really big-time virtuoso stuff--most parts of most of them could be played by a competent intermediate-level player. The coolness is in the general sound, and the tunes, not the "wow" factor.

This is interesting, from the same era, an Atkins single called Slinky.

Listening to some of his other songs of that era, he was using reverb, too.

You hear that sound now and then on recordings and I never have known what it's called, much less how it's done.

"'Sleepwalk'--hell yeah. One of my favorite songs ever."

Me too, and evidently it's popular among many musicians. There must a dozen versions of this song by well-known guitarists.

Several years ago I started accumulating a list of songs I like. I'm sure there are still plenty I've overlooked, but it's getting harder to find them. Somehow I missed Dick Dale's "Misirlou," so thanks for that one. Also, I had The Ventures' "Apache" but not Jorgen Ingmann's version, so I added that one, too.

Hope all is well out your way, Mac.

A bit of trivia I uncovered while gathering up these clips: although "Apache" was a hit in Europe as well as the US, the original recording was by the English band The Shadows, and they had the hit over there, while the American version was by a Dane. Don't know how that happened. Here's The Shadows' version. Not dressed up quite as much. I think I may like it better.

Things are fine. I hope with you also.

I like it (The Shadows' original version of "Apache"). Also a wet recording. Not quite as "dressed up" as the others but has some unusual note-bending at about 1:07 and near the very end. Have to add this to my category of songs with good multiple versions.

I like that it's missing the simulated flying-arrow noises.

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