Bruce Rits Gilbert

Song 17 - - Jan and Dean

I never saw Jan and Dean perform live. Their prime was a little before my time. They had a number of big pop "surfer" hits back in the early 60s. They were kind of the Beach Boys just a few years before the Beach Boys. 

William Jan Berry and Dean Torrence met in junior high school in the mid 50s, and, as legend has it, started singing harmony (sometimes with other teammates) in the showers after football practice. They continued to sing together in high school, and, after Dean finished his commitment with the U.S. Army Reserve (and after Jan had recorded a few songs with Arnie Ginsburg as part of the "Jan and Arnie" duo), Jan and Dean became a duo in 1959. 

Their first big hit was Baby Talk (notably, about a five year old boy who falls in love with a three year old girl). But, unlike most pop singers back then, both Jan and Dean went to college (Dean majored in advertising design at USC, and Jan, after graduating from UCLA, completed two years of medical school), while recording music and performing live on a part time basis. 

Then, after meeting Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, they were among the pioneers of the surf sound, scoring a series of hit records from 1963 to 1966, including Surf City, which was written by Brian Wilson. Their success led them to several movie and TV appearances.

On April 12, 1966, roughly two years after the release of Jan and Dean's hit Dead Man's Curve, Jan, driving his Corvette, rammed into a parked truck in Beverly Hills, just a short distance from the real Dead Man's Curve. Despite serious head and other injuries, Jan was able to return to the studio about a year later. And a made-for-TV film about Jan and Dean called "Dead Man's Curve" aired on CBS in 1978. 

Jan died in 2004 at the age of 62. Dean, now 76, still performs as part of the Surf City Allstars, and, amazingly, lives in a town (Huntington Beach, CA) which is popularly known as "Surf City." 

So, to honor Jan and Dean, here is song 17: Jan and Dean singing Surf City. (The best parts of this YouTube clip may be the introduction by Steve Allen, famously wearing an ascot, and the polite applause by the "older" gals at the end.) 

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