Jan & Dean

Greatly Appreciated


Jan and Dean  were an American rock and roll duo consisting of Jan Berry and Dean Torrence.  In the early 1960’s, they were pioneers of the California Sound and vocal surf music styles popularized by the Beach Boys.  Among their most successful songs was “Surf City”, which topped US record charts in 1963.  Their other charting singles were “Drag City” (1963), “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” (1964), and “Dead Man’s Curve” (1964); the last of which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.  (More from Wikipedia)
Back in junior high, I was really enamored with Jan & Dean (not so much with the Beach Boys, but I liked them also), and the various other one-hit wonder surf rock bands of that time period. I loved the hot rod songs and the surfing songs and all the cool lingo about woodies, shooting the curl, shutting someone down, etc.  Jan & Dean were the hosts as I recall of one of the first big rock concert films, The T.A.M.I. Show (it stands for Teen Age Music International).  I was starting to tire of the duo though, particularly when they resorted to covering British Invasion songs and started releasing tripe like Jan & Dean Meet Batman.  I didn’t know about the harder edged surf rock that was out there – e.g., Dick Dale – and it might have held my interest better if I had.  But in retrospect, the surf music that I knew then was nothing but fun, and I have a lot of fond memories of it all. 
The Rip Chords had one of the biggest hits of the surf era in the early 1960’s with “Hey Little Cobra” – maybe THE biggest outside of those by Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys – when it reached #4 on the charts in early 1964 (back in the early days of Beatlemania).
After auditioning with Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son), the band was signed to Columbia Records in 1962 – that’s just one year after the Beach Boys were founded, for those who think that the surf craze started with them.  (For that matter, Jan & Dean didn’t form until 1958, so surf didn’t completely start with them either). 
Most sources believe that Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher basically took over vocal duties for almost all of the recordings by the Rip Chords after Hey Little Cobra and Other Hot Rod Hits.  However, Ernie Bringas insists that all four vocalists collaborated as to who would handle the singing, and that the hit song “Hey Little Cobra” is about the only song where neither he nor Phil Stewart sang at all.  For instance, both he and Bruce Johnston were singing the falsetto part on the Top 30 follow-up to their big hit, “Three Window Coupe” (co-written by Jan Berry of Jan & Dean).
I purchased the band’s first album a long time ago, but I came across their second album just recently, and I have really been enjoying it.  Unlike the first album, Three Window Coupe doesn’t recycle a lot of the same old surf songs; instead, the songs are all unfamiliar to me – except the title song, which I definitely remember – and that makes it a lot more special.  That “California Sound” a la Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys is there in force, and it was fun to re-familiarize myself with all those good times.
(July 2011)
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Items:    Jan & Dean 
Last edited: March 22, 2021