LOS ANGELES — Dick Dodd, a Mouseketeer on Disney’s original “Mickey Mouse Club” who went on to become a surf music pioneer and a youth-quaking garage rock showman, died Friday in a Fountain Valley, Calif., hospital, said his close friend, Tim Ferrill. Dodd was 68.
Dodd announced earlier this year on his website that he had stage 4 cancer. Born Joseph Richard Dodd Jr. on Oct. 27, 1945, in Hermosa Beach, Calif., Dodd cultivated an interest in singing, dancing and performing as a young boy. In 1955, at the age of 9, he was cast on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” the beloved television variety show that came to epitomize postwar America, alongside series regulars such as Annette Funicello and Cubby O’Brien. On the show, he was the Mouseketeer known as Dickie.
“It was the best training I could have had as a kid,” Dodd told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “You had to learn fast. You didn’t horse around. Even though you were a kid, you had to hit your marks and learn your parts.”
In the early 1960s, Dodd was a member of two of the earliest and most influential surf rock bands — the Bel-Airs, which nabbed a hit with the 1961 instrumental “Mr. Moto,” and Eddie and the Showmen, which performed on the same bill as some of the luminaries of the era including the Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher and the Righteous Brothers.
A kind of pop cultural “Where’s Waldo,” Dodd also went on to appear on a number of television shows and was a dancer in the 1963 film version of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”
But in 1964, Dodd took a musical left turn out of the mainstream to become drummer-vocalist in the garage rock band the Standells, known primarily for their popular single “Dirty Water.” Recorded in 1965, it became the Standells’ first and only hit, peaking at No. 11 on the national singles chart. And with its unforgettable refrain, “Boston, you’re my home,” the song held a special renown in Beantown where it’s still an anthem for its sports teams, including the Red Sox baseball team and hockey-playing Bruins.
The Standells also went on to provide a soundtrack to the clash between counterculture revelers and the establishment in 1967 with Dodd singing their second best-known song, “Riot on Sunset Strip,” on camera during the opening credits of a low-budget exploitation movie of the same name.
“When he opened his mouth, there was that voice: snotty and authoritative, an American Mick Jagger sort of voice,” said Deke Dickerson, who performed at concerts with Dodd in the last years of his life and booked him to perform at the Guitar Geek Festival in Anaheim, Calif., last year. “It’s the sound that captures a particular era in ’60s garage music.”
In his later years, gigs were sometimes hard to come by, and to earn a living he worked as a limousine driver in Buena Park, Calif., where he lived. But he did play concerts into this year, sometimes with his oldies outfit the Dodd Squad. As recently as April, he impressed attendees at a Burbank gig with his stage presence and vivacity.
“He was playing great, singing great, commanding the stage and leading the band from behind the drum kit better than anyone ever seen — and he was 67,” Dickerson said.
Dodd was separated from his second wife, Janet Dodd. He is also survived by his adult daughter, Nicole.