Jan and Dean
by Erika Cox
Jan and Dean were part of the surf craze in the early 1960’s and second only to the Beach Boys as one of the most successful surf groups. Jan Berry was born on April 3, 1941 and Dean Torrence on March 10, 1941 both were born in Los Angeles, California and attended the same schools, Jefferson Junior High and University High school.
Attending University High, the two became friends while playing football and shortly after began singing together after football practices. After football season they would continue to practice in the garage of Jan’s house and became members of the all-male singing club, the Barons, at their high school.
The group performed only once at their high school dance and except for Jan, Dean and another member, Arnie, all the other members left the club to get involved in other interests.
After attending a nightclub and watching a local stripper by the name of Jennie Lee perform, the remaining members decided to write a song about the stripper. They sent the demo to a recording studio where a producer heard the song and decided to release it on Arwin Records.
While Dean was in the Army, Jan and Arnie recorded the song and released it. A couple of months later the song went all the way to number two on the pop charts. Soon after the success of the song, Dean returned from the Army and Arnie left the group to pursue other interest leaving only Jan and Dean.
Since Arnie was the songwriter of the group, Jan and Dean set out to find a replacement, which they did when they ran into Herb Alpert and producer Lou Alder. After working diligently in the studio, the duo recorded and released their next hit, “ Baby Talk” in 1959. The song reached the Top Ten on the charts and opened the door for Jan and Dean to appear on American Bandstand. They followed up their success with a number of other popular songs over the next couple of years and also recorded an album called Jan and Dean on Dore Records.
The duo moved around with several record labels and finally landed with Liberty Records recording a hit song called “Linda”. Jan and Dean became more involved in surf music when they performed with the Beach Boys on stage in 1962, noticing how the crowd went wild they continued to focus on surf music collaborating with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
The duo played the instrumental parts to one of the Beach Boys’ songs called “Surfin” and they also sung part of the lyrics on “Surf City” with the Beach Boys, which became a number one hit.
The following year in 1963, the duo continued their surf music explosion with more popular songs like “Wild Surf”, “Sidewalk Surfin”, "Honolulu Lulu", and “Little Old Lady From Pasadena” to name a few.
Although Jan and Dean didn’t have the creativity or depth like the Beach Boys, they still managed to produce a wide range of popular surf songs and capture a strong fan base. And many of their songs had the same feeling as the Beach Boys songs - good feelings, sunshine, and surfing.
While recording and performing, the duo managed to become college graduates. Dean received a degree in architecture and Jan was accepted into medical school after he graduated.
In 1964, they decided to start their own record label called Magic Lamp Records and released fourteen singles by a number of artists in two years.
In 1966, Jan was involved in a major car accident that left him with brain damage and partial paralysis, the duo’s success came to a halt and they didn’t record or perform for more than a decade. In February 1978, a movie was released called Deadman’s Curve, which chronicled the fateful car accident and Jan’s struggle to regain a normal life.
Although Jan was still recuperating from his injuries, he was able to tour with Dean and the Beach Boys in 1978 and 1979. Jan and Dean continued to perform in stadiums and events across the country until Jan’s death in March of 2004. The duo remained friends throughout their entire career. They had thirteen Top 20 singles and sold well over ten million records worldwide.
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