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Spotlighted Artist

Jan and Dean

 

Jan and DeanJan and Dean's Greatest Hits LP was the first album I bought titled "Greatest Hits." Jan and Dean's music was to me a collection of summer time fun music and they were very successful. There success story is quite different than many other rock groups of that era. Jan and Dean's music career took a backseat to their educational pursuits which was quite uncommon during the 60s era. It was filled with many successes and of course tragedy.

Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, both born in Los Angeles, California, began singing together as a duo after football practice at University High School. Primitive recording sessions followed soon after, in a makeshift studio in Berry's garage. They first performed onstage as "The Barons" at a high school dance. With the Barons, Jan Berry was experimenting with multi-part vocal arrangements — five years before he started working professionally with Brian Wilson.

Their first commercial success was "Jennie Lee" released in 1958, an ode to a local, Hollywood burlesque performer, that Jan Berry recorded with fellow Baron Arnie Ginsburg and which reached #8 on the charts. "Jan & Arnie" released three singles in all. After Dean Torrence returned from a stint in the army reserves, Berry and Torrence began to make music as "Jan and Dean".

With the help of record producers Herb Alpert and Lou Adler, Jan and Dean scored a #10 hit with "Baby Talk" (1959), and then scored a series of hits over the next couple of years. Playing local venues, they met and performed with the Beach Boys, and discovered the appeal of the latter's "surf sound". By this time, Berry was co-writing, arranging, and producing all of Jan and Dean's original material. Berry signed a series of contracts with Screen Gems to write and produce music for Jan and Dean, as well as other artists such as Judy & Jill (which included Berry's girlfriend Jill Gibson and Dean Torrence's girlfriend Judy Lovejoy), The Matadors, and Pixie (a young female solo singer).

During this time, Berry co-wrote and/or arranged and produced songs for artists outside of Jan and Dean, including The Angels ("I Adore Him", a Top 40 hit, the Gents, the Matadors (Sinners), Judy & Jill, Pixie (unreleased), Jill Gibson, Shelley Fabares, Deane Hawley, The Rip Chords ("Three Window Coupe", another Top 40 hit, and Johnny Crawford, among others.

Unlike most other rock 'n roll acts of the period, Jan and Dean did not give music their full-time attention. Jan and Dean were college students, maintaining their studies while writing and recording music and making public appearances on the side.

Torrence majored in advertising design in the school of architecture at USC. Berry took science and music classes at UCLA, and entered the California College of Medicine (now the UC Irvine School of Medicine) in 1963. By the time of his 1966 auto accident, Berry had completed two years of medical school.

Jan and Dean reached their commercial peak in 1963 and 1964. The duo scored an impressive sixteen Top 40 hits on the Billboard and Cash Box magazine charts, with a total of twenty-six chart hits over an eight-year period (1958-1966). Jan and Brian Wilson collaborated on roughly a dozen hits and album cuts for Jan and Dean, including the number one national hit "Surf City" in 1963. Subsequent top 10 hits included "Drag City" (#10) (1963), "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" (#3) (1964), and the eerily portentous "Dead Man's Curve" (#8) (1964).

In 1964, at the height of their fame, Jan and Dean hosted and performed at The T.A.M.I. Show, a historic concert film directed by Steve Binder. The film also featured such acts as The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Gerry & the Pacemakers, James Brown, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Lesley Gore, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and the Beach Boys (whose sequence was later cut from the film, due to contract violation issues). Also in 1964, the duo performed the title track for the Columbia Pictures film Ride the Wild Surf, starring Fabian, Tab Hunter, Peter Brown, Shelley Fabares, and Barbara Eden. The song, penned by Jan Berry, Brian Wilson, and Roger Christian, was a Top 20 national hit.

After the surf craze, Jan and Dean scored two Top 40 hits in 1965: "You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy" and "I Found a Girl" — the latter from the album Folk 'n Roll. During this period, they also began to experiment with cutting-edge comedy concepts such as the original (unreleased) Filet of Soul and Jan & Dean Meet Batman. The former's album cover shows Berry with his leg in a cast as a result of the accident while filming Easy Come, Easy Go.

On April 12, 1966, Berry received severe head injuries in an automobile accident just a short distance from Dead Man's Curve in Los Angeles, California, two years after the song had become a hit. Berry was on his way to a business meeting when he crashed his Corvette into a parked truck on Whittier Drive, near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard, in Beverly Hills. Berry had also separated from his girlfriend of seven years, singer-artist Jill Gibson, later a member for a short time of The Mamas & the Papas, who had also co-written several songs with Berry.

Berry traveled a long and difficult road toward recovery from brain damage and partial paralysis. He had minimal use of his right arm, and had to learn to write with his left hand. Doctors said he would never walk again, but he refused to give up, and ultimately succeeded. Torrence stood by his partner, maintaining their presence in the music industry, and keeping open the possibility that they would perform together again.

In Berry's absence, Torrence released several singles on the J&D Record Co. label and recorded "Save for a Rainy Day" in 1966, a concept album featuring all rain-themed songs. Torrence posed with Berry's brother Ken for the album cover photos. Columbia Records released one single from the project ("Yellow Balloon") as did the song's writer, Gary Zekley, with The Yellow Balloon, but with legal wrangles scuttling Torrence's Columbia deal and Berry's disapproval of the project, "Save for a Rainy Day" remained a self-released album on the J&D Record Co. label.

Besides his studio work, Torrence became a graphic artist while Berry recovered, starting his own company, Kittyhawk Graphics, and designing and creating album covers and logos for other musicians and recording artists, including Harry Nilsson, Steve Martin, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston, The Beach Boys, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Linda Ronstadt, Papa Doo Run Run, Canned Heat, The Ventures and many others. Torrence (with Gene Brownell) won a Grammy Award for Album Cover of the Year, for the group Pollution in 1973.

Berry returned to the studio in April 1967, one year to the month after his accident. Working with collaborators, he began writing and producing music again. In December 1967, Jan and Dean signed an agreement with Warner Bros. Records. Warner issued two singles under the name Jan and Dean, but a 1968 Berry-produced album for Warner Bros., the psychedelic Carnival of Sound, remains unreleased.

Berry began to sing again in the early 1970s, and he arranged and produced a number of singles (both solo and as Jan & Dean) between 1972 and 1978 on the Ode and A&M labels, facilitated by friend and former manager Lou Adler. Berry also toured with his Aloha band, while Dean began performing with a band called Papa Doo Run Run.

In 1973, Jan and Dean made an appearance at the Hollywood Palladium, as part of Jim Pewter's "Surfer's Stomp" reunion. But the duo's first performance after Berry's accident — backed with live musicians — occurred at the Palomino Nightclub in North Hollywood, June 5, 1976 (ten years after the accident). Backing the duo was Dean's band, Papa Doo Run Run. The day after that performance there was a very positive review in "Variety" and the phones started ringing. By fall 1976, a successful tour of the Pacific Northwest took place. This was followed by four additional nationwide tours between 1977 and 1980. Jan was still suffering the effects of his 1966 accident, with partial paralysis and aphasia. He had a noticeable limp and his right arm was useless. In addition, his speech was slurred.

On February 3, 1978, CBS aired a made-for-TV movie about the duo titled Deadman's Curve. The biopic starred Richard Hatch as Jan Berry and Bruce Davison as Dean Torrence, with cameo appearances by Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack, Mike Love of the Beach Boys, and Bruce Johnston (who at that time was temporarily out of the Beach Boys), as well as Berry himself (near the end of the movie, he can be seen sitting in the audience, watching "himself" (Richard Hatch) perform onstage). The part of Jan & Dean's band, Papa Doo Run Run, was played by themselves. Johnston and Berry had known each other since high school, and had played music together in Berry's garage in Bel Air — long before Jan & Dean or the Beach Boys were formed. Following the release of the film, the duo made steps toward an official comeback that year, including touring with the Beach Boys.

In the early 1980s, Papa Doo Run Run left to explore other performance and recording ventures. Berry struggled to overcome drug addiction, so Torrence toured briefly as "Mike & Dean", with Mike Love of the Beach Boys. Once Berry got sober, the duo reunited for good. In "Phase II" of their career, Dean Torrence led the touring operation. In 1986, Berry helped establish the Jan Berry Center for the Brain Injured in Downey, California. Though Berry only made a partial recovery, he remained a high-profile example for patients with traumatic brain injury.

Jan and Dean continued to tour on their own throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and into the new millennium — with 1960s nostalgia providing them with a ready audience. Sundazed Records reissued Save for a Rainy Day in 1996, and the album drew critical praise.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, Torrence issued a number of re-recordings of classic Jan and Dean hits. An album titled One Summer Night / Live was issued by Rhino Records in 1982, and Dean collaborated with Berry on Port to Paradise, released on J&D Records in 1986. In 1997, after many years of hard work, Berry released a solo album called Second Wave on One Way Records. On August 31, 1991, Berry married Gertie Filip at The Stardust Convention Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada. Torrence was Berry's best man at the wedding.

Jan and Dean ended with Jan Berry's death on March 26, 2004, at the age of 62. Berry was an organ donor, and his body was cremated. On April 18, 2004, a "Celebration of Life" was held in Berry's memory at The Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. Celebrities attending the event included Dean Torrence, Lou Adler, Jill Gibson, and Nancy Sinatra. Also present were many family members, friends, and musicians associated with Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys including the original 1970's version of Papa Doo Run Run.

Torrence now tours occasionally with The Surf City Allstars. He serves as a spokesman for the City of Huntington Beach California, which, thanks in part to his efforts, is nationally recognized as "Surf City USA". He officially endorses the Official Jan & Dean Fan Site.

Along with Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, and Lee Hazlewood, Berry enjoyed a reputation as one of the best record producers on the West Coast. Brian Wilson has cited Berry as having a direct impact on his own growth as a record producer.

Dean Torrence believes the duo should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: "We have the scoreboard if you just want to compare number of hits and musical projects done. We beat 75 percent of the people in there. So what else is it? I've got to think that we were pretty irreverent when it came to the music industry. They kind of always held that against us. That's OK with me."

The Who covered Jan and Deans song "Bucket T" on their album A Quick One from 1966. It is one of only a few songs the group performed where Keith Moon (a huge surf music fan) provided the lead vocals.

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