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Profile: Jan and Dean


The duo at the height of their fame

The duo at the height of their fame



1959 (Los Angeles, CA)


Rock and roll, Surf vocal, Hot Rod vocal, Pop-rock, Folk rock, Doo-wop


Jan Berry (b. William Jan Berry, April 3, 1941, Los Angeles, CA; d. March 26, 2004, Los Angeles, CA): harmony vocals (bass), piano, production
Dean Ormsby Torrence (b. March 10, 1940, Los Angeles, CA): lead vocals (falsetto)

Contributions to music:

  • Along with the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, Jan Berry helped develop the sound of vocal "surf" and "hot rod" music
  • Berry was a major influence on Wilson's production
  • Bridged the vocal era of doo-wop and the Southern California sound
  • Employed the famous "Wrecking Crew" of L.A. session musicians
  • One of the first rock groups to incorporate classical arrangements
  • Torrance became one of rock's great graphic artists
  • Jan Berry's comeback after a near-fatal crash is one of pop music's most inspiring achievements

Early years:

Jan Berry and Dean Torrence first became friends on the football team at L.A.'s University High, but Dean's first success came with Arnie Ginsburg (not the Boston DJ); the duo scored a big doo-wop hit as Jan and Arnie with 1958's "Jennie Lee." That song, actually written about a stripper, gained Berry some friends in the business, including Herb Alpert and producer Lou Adler. Together with friend Torrence, who'd just returned from an Army stint, they developed a song called "Baby Talk."


It was also a smash, but it wasn't until 1963, with the release of the Four Seasons-inspired "Linda," that the Jan and Dean sound began to take shape. After meeting the Beach Boys on the L.A. scene, Jan befriended leader Brian Wilson, and thw two began work on what would become "Surf City." Inspired by the local scene and Wilson's very recent hits, "Surfin'" and "Surfin' Safari" -- and benefiting from Berry's amazing self-taught production skills -- it went straight to Number One.

Later years:

The duo flourished well into the mid-Sixties, weathering even the British Invasion. But on April 12, 1966, Berry's Stingray slammed into a parked gardener's truck (not at the site mentioned in "Dead Man's Curve," despite legend), and Jan entered a decade-long nightmare of physical recovery, drug abuse, and depression. By the mid-Seventies, amazingly, Berry could perform almost at normal, and the duo began an amazing comeback that lasted well into the mid-Eighties. Berry passed away in 2004.

Other facts:

  • Dean recorded a solo pro-war answer to "The Universal Solider" called "The Universal Coward"
  • Recorded a full-length album parody of the "Batman" craze in 1966
  • Set to star in their own "Route 66"-type TV show on ABC before Berry's crash
  • In addition to designing many album covers in the Seventies, Torrence co-created the logo for the band Chicago
  • Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" references Jan's brother Bruce
  • Berry's '60s girlfriend, Jill Gibson, was in an early version of The Mamas and the Papas

Songs, Albums, and Charts:

#1 hits:
  • "Surf City" (1963)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Baby Talk" (1959)
  • "Drag City" (1964)
  • "Dead Man's Curve" (1964)
  • "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)" (1964)
  • "Surf City" (1963)
Other important recordings: "Tennessee," "A Sunday Kind of Love," "Honolulu Lulu," "Linda," "Ride The Wild Surf," "Sidewalk Surfin'," "Bucket T," "My Mighty G.T.O.," "When Summer Comes (Gonna Hustle You)," "The New Girl In School," "The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review And Timing Association," "(Here They Come) From All Over The World," "I Found A Girl," "You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy," "Fiddle Around," "Popsicle," "A Beginning From An End"
Covered by: The Who, The Ramones, The Beach Boys, The Lively Ones, The Tymes, The Rip Chords, The Tokens, Annette Funicello, Ronny and the Daytonas, The Carpeenters, The Turtles, Davie Allan and the Arrows, Alex Chilton, Blink 182, The Go-Gos
Appears in the movies: "The T.A.M.I. Show" (1965)
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