(always cast as “Dick Dale”)
If there is a primary musician in this series, it’s Dick “inventor of surf guitar” Dale, even though only appeared in the first two films. He has several numbers in Beach Party and is clearly made the “house band leader” in Muscle Beach Party. He even had a handful of speaking lines in the latter, which was rare; none of the other musicians subsequently cast in these movies got to open their mouths other than to introduce a number or sing the verses in their songs.
Dale was one of the oldest members of the cast, having been born in the 1930s to Lebanese and Polish parents. As a child in New England, he grew up listening to folk music from both cultures, which some of his fans feel had a major impact on his sense of melody and the approach to playing. Coming of age in the 1940s he also heard lots of big band music, and became particularly interested in the drummer Gene Krupa, whose wild, rhythmic style may have impacted Dale’s approach to guitar.
Dick gained fame in 1962 when he recorded his first album, Surfer’s Choice, on the Del-Tone label. Surfer’ Choice was notable both as both the first surf music album and as a major regional hit across Southern California. That popularity caught the attention of L.A. based Capitol Records, which contracted Dale and subsequently provided national distribution for the album.
By the following year, things were really taking off for Dick. In addition to his appearance in Beach Party, he was featured in a Life Magazine article and got booked onto the Ed Sullivan Show. During the following years, he released several follow up albums on Capitol and developed his famous relationship with Leo Fender (of Fender guitars). Dick and Leo worked together to develop stronger and louder guitars and amps, engineering which hugely affected the subsequent development of rock n’ roll.
Dale was moving from regional to national celebrity at the time of these movies, which were not his first. He and his band the Del-Tones had appeared in several low budget "rock n' roll" films prior to Beach Party, but these were really the first "major" productions they participated in. As one will note from score section of this site, AIP, Music Scorer Baxter and Director Asher never really figured out how to best leverage Dale (he is used as "audio wallpaper" far too often, and doesn't get nearly enough solo performance screen time), which I suspect may have led to some frustration on his part and departure after the second film.
Interestingly, after Dick ‘left,” the producers at AIP didn’t subsequently put other brand name surf bands in the series (the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Astronauts, Fantastic Baggies, etc.) even though the latter were available. Jan and Dean material appeared in “Ride the Wild Surf” in 1964, the Beach Boys were cast in “Girls on the Beach” in 1965 and the Astronauts showed up in a bunch of Beach Party Clones (“Wild, Wild Winter,” "Wild on the Beach," etc.) Why is mystery, although I hypothesize AIP – which was infamous for making films as cheaply as possible – probably looked into it but was unwilling to pay whatever agents for those groups were asking.
As any guitar fan knows, Dale is an active artist who still tours regularly and whose concerts continue to attract large, young crowds. As such, he and Frankie Avalon are the only remaining musical stars of these films who are really "still out there" (Dale more than Avalon; he focuses solely on music, while Avalon has a number of interests and hence a more tangential focus on performing).