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Members include Jan Berry (born William Jan Berry on April 3, 1941, in Los Angeles, CA; married Gertie Filip, 1991. Education: University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), 1962; UCLA Medical School, 1963-66); Dean Torrence (born on March 10, 1941, in Los Angeles, CA. Education: Master's degree, University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture and Fine Arts). Addresses: Management--Bill Hollingshead, 1720 N Ross St., Santa Ana, CA Phone: (714) 543-4894 Fax: (714) 542-3460.

California surf music sensations Jan Berry and Dean Torrence rode the currents of fame in the early 1960s when they performed as the surfin' rock 'n' roll duo known as Jan & Dean. On record and onstage, the pair evoked an aura of unfettered youth, singing upbeat songs about big waves, sandy beaches, beautiful girls, and fast cars. Theirs was an image that readily captured the imagination of young people worldwide. Jan & Dean records sold by the millions until a shocking tragedy brought the wave of success crashing down. The pair weathered the storm and orchestrated a comeback in the late 1970s.

William Jan Berry was born on April 3, 1941, in Los Angeles, California, where he grew up in the Bel Air community of Los Angeles. One of ten siblings, he was the son of an electrical engineer and a homemaker. At that time, schools recorded students' intelligence quotients (IQs), and Berry's IQ was tested at well over 150. With 100 being average, he was regarded as a genius. He possessed an affinity for electronics--especially sound equipment--and worked in his spare time as a disc jockey. Berry, who aspired to be a doctor, also harbored a desire to become a recording artist.

Intelligence notwithstanding, Berry was a rowdy and reckless child who fell from a moving car at age two and on occasion was expelled from school. In high school, he enjoyed the rugged sport of football. He played tight end for his school team, the Warriors, and developed a close friendship with his teammate, Dean O. Torrence, who played wide receiver and free safety. Torrence was born on March 10, 1941, in Los Angeles and also grew up in Bel Air. The two friends were former schoolmates from Jefferson Junior High School in West Los Angeles, and by the twelfth grade, a bond of friendship had solidified between them.

As high school athletes, Berry and Torrence belonged to an informal letterman club called the Barons Hi Y. The two loved to sing, and in the locker room after football practices they habitually led the rest of the Barons in a capella harmony, causing the school's shower room to resonate with their impromptu renditions of popular songs. The notion of performing as a singing group first surfaced in preparation for a school talent show when Berry and Torrence assembled the Barons for a formal rehearsal in Berry's converted garage, which had been outfitted to function as an amateur recording studio. There, along with drummer Sandy Nelson and pianist Bruce Johnston (who later joined the Beach Boys), the Barons practiced a repertoire consisting of three songs: "Short Shorts," "Get a Job," and "Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay." After the school talent show, all of the Barons abandoned the chorus with the exception of Berry and Torrence.

Early Hit Single

After graduation from University High School in Los Angeles in the summer of 1958, Torrence signed with the United States Army Reserve and prepared to leave for a six-month stint of active duty at the Ford Ord military base in Monterey, California. Berry, meanwhile, was in the final stages of writing a song called "Jenny Lee," which he planned to record on tape using the equipment in his garage, then use as a demonstration record. In Torrence's absence, another one of the Barons, Arnie Ginsberg, sang on the demo record with Berry. When Berry brought the tape to a professional recording studio in Hollywood for conversion to record, Joe Lubin of Arvin Records overheard "Jenny Lee" and recognized the hit potential of the recording. He offered to dub the existing vocal cut with instrumentation by professional musicians and to promote the record for Berry. "Jenny Lee" received regular radio play and rose to number eight on the American music charts.

Torrence rejoined Berry upon his return from boot camp, and Ginsberg took his leave from the group. The ensemble that came to be known as Jan & Dean thus went into regular collaboration. Berry and Torrence solicited the assistance of two well-respected musicians, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, to help with songwriting. Adler and Alpert wrote an arrangement of "Baby Talk," which Jan & Dean recorded with Berry performing triple duty, as pianist, sound technician, and tape editor. Alpert handled the background orchestration, which he dubbed onto the master voice tape, and "Baby Talk" was released on Dore Records in 1959. Dick Clark gave the song airplay on American Bandstandin July of that year, and a short time later, the single had reached number ten on the charts. Five more singles followed on the Dore label during 1960, including "We Go Together" and "Gee." The label had compiled a self-titled Jan & Deanalbum and released two additional singles, "Judy's an Angel" and "Don't Fly Away," by 1961. That year, the duo signed with the singing cowboy, Gene Autry, on his Challenge Records label. "Heart and Soul," released on that label, reached number 25 on the Billboardcharts and was the top-selling single in Los Angeles during the summer of 1961. "Wanted, One Girl," followed soon after, and Berry and Torrence signed with Liberty Records by the year's end. They released four Liberty singles including the seasonal favorite, "Frosty the Snowman," in 1962.

Superstardom and More

By 1963, Berry and Torrence had achieved not only chart-topping success in the music business, but they both graduated from college as well. Berry completed a pre-med curriculum at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1962, and Torrence received a bachelor's degree in design from the University of Southern California (USC). Their 1963 release, entitled "Linda," reached number 28 on the Billboard charts, and that year Jan & Dean collaborated for the first time with Brian Wilson, singer and songwriter in the surf music supergroup the Beach Boys.

The professional association between Berry, Torrence, and Wilson first began when Wilson and the Beach Boys were hired to play instrumentation behind Jan & Dean during a live concert at Hermosa Beach High School. In the wake of the extraordinary success of the concert, the three musicians eagerly anticipated future collaborations. Soon after, Jan & Dean released their Liberty debut album, Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfing,to which Wilson contributed two of his own songs: "Surfin" and "Surfin' Safari." Wilson's Beach Boys songs were featured as the lead tracks on the album, and another Wilson song, "Surf City," was included on the album as well. Additionally, Wilson contributed voice doubles and mid range falsetto to the album's vocal track. "Surf City" landed on the top of the music charts as a number-one hit single, and Berry and Torrence became media idols seemingly overnight. Also by year's end, Jan & Dean released a number ten Billboardhit single, called "Honolulu Lulu." The duo's next song, about hot rods, was called "Drag City" and also topped at number ten on the Billboard charts and became the title track for a so-called "car album." By this time, both Berry and Torrence were enrolled in graduate school programs--Torrence in a master's program at the USC School of Architecture and Fine Arts and Berry at the UCLA School of Medicine.

In the wake of Jan & Dean's number one hit single "Surf City" in 1963, the pair scored three top ten single releases in succession. For the holidays that year, the duo appeared with Murray the K's popular revue at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre on a program bill that featured an impressive lineup of talent including Stevie Wonder, the Shirelles, and Gene Pitney.

The ominous single track, "Deadman's Curve" from the Drag Cityalbum appeared as a single in 1964 and climbed to number eight on the Billboardchart. Jan & Dean's next release--a whimsical tune, called "Little Old Lady from Pasadena"--reached number three on the charts to become the duo's fifth top ten hit in a row and the seventh gold record for Berry and Torrence. When Columbia Pictures approached Jan & Dean about writing and recording a title track for a 1964 movie called Ride the Wild Surf,the two musicians accepted the offer, but declined an accompanying opportunity to star in the movie. Their "Sidewalk Surfin'" single, with melody by Wilson, reached number 25 on the Billboard chart. By end of that year, Jan & Dean recordings were ranked at number six among the top selling singles that year. Jan & Dean's sales were bested only by the Beatles, Four Seasons, Beach Boys, and Elvis Presley. After placing 28 hit records on the music charts, Jan & Dean coasted to a pinnacle of success on all fronts in early 1966. Torrence had completed his graduate work in commercial design, Berry continued to work toward a medical degree, and no less than seven of their hit singles had peaked among the top ten tunes on the Billboardchart.

Career Put on Hold

Suddenly, Jan & Dean's joyride of fame literally came to a screeching halt when Jan Berry lost control of his Corvette Stingray on April 12, 1966. Berry at the moment of the collision was traveling an estimated 60 miles per hour. He slammed into a parked truck, and the impact caused his skull to split open, yet rescuers pulled him still breathing from the rubble. With massive head injuries, he was comatose for more than a month, underwent multiple brain surgeries, and spent seven years in rehabilitation.

Torrence, minus his best friend and colleague, turned to other pursuits. He established a graphics design firm,called Kitty Hawk Graphics, and for more than a decade, stayed occupied in designing items such as album covers, logos, and souvenir concert books for popular show business acts. In 1970 he received his first Grammy Award nomination from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for the best album cover of the year for the design of Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddyby the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; more nominations followed. Among the familiar logos designed by Torrence are the modern Beach Boys logo and the American Music Awards design.

By 1978, after 12 years of recuperation, Berry had regained enough strength to attempt a comeback. A CBS Movie of the Week called Dead Man's Curve was televised that year. The docudrama depicted the story of Jan & Dean and the tragedy that interrupted the duo's career. Dick Clark, the late Wolfman Jack, and members of the Beach Boys among others starred as themselves in the picture. That year, Jan & Dean appeared with the Beach Boys on the bill of the Surfin' Deja Vu Summer Tour in 1978. From there, Jan & Dean went on to perform on a number of occasions at the Rose Bow in Pasadena, California, and in Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada. Among their international performances, Jan & Dean appeared in the People's Republic of China as part of the Friendship Tour 1986. During that show, Torrence made headlines when he rode a skateboard across the Great Wall of China.

Berry married Gertie Filip, a former waitress, in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1991. After a year-long courtship, the couple said their marriage vows onstage during a Jan & Dean concert. Seemingly tireless and unstoppable, Berry completed the production of his first solo album, Second Wave,in 1997. The album was released on One Way Records. Jan & Dean have continued to perform in the 2000s with a band called the Bel Air Bandits.

by Gloria Cooksey

Jan & Dean's Career

Surf music duo, 1958-66; Torrence established Kitty Hawk Graphics while Berry recuperated from severe injuries resulting from a car accident, 1966-78; comeback career as a singing duo, 1978--.

Famous Works

Further Reading



Jan & Dean Lyrics

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over 13 years ago

Dear Dean Torrence Hi it's Robin Berry or what ever you want to call me Are still singing and righting music? I'm doing ok you have fans that miss you and Jan together Jan Berry was a great singer and so were you Your fans miss you and I do my self Thank you for the surf music Robin Berry