Jan & Dean Biography

US pop duo comprising Jan Berry (William Jan Berry, 3 April 1941, Los Angeles, California, USA, d. 26 March 2004, Los Angeles, California, USA) and Dean Torrence (b. 10 March 1940, Los Angeles, California, USA). Students at Emerson Junior High School, Berry and Torrence began singing together on an informal basis. They formed an embryonic group, the Barons, with Bruce Johnston and Sandy Nelson, but its members gradually drifted away, leaving Berry, Torrence and singer Arnie Ginsburg to plot a different course. The trio recorded ‘Jennie Lee’ in 1958. A homage to the subject of Ginsburg’s affections, a local striptease artist, the single (on the Arwin label) became a surprise hit, reaching number 8 in the US chart in May. Although featured on the song, Torrence was drafted into the Army Reserves prior to its success, and the pressing was credited to Jan And Arnie. Subsequent releases failed to achieve success and Jan And Arnie came to a premature end. Berry and Torrence were reunited the following year. They completed several demos in Berry’s makeshift studio and, having secured the production and management services of local entrepreneur Lou Adler, the reshaped duo signed to the Doré label and enjoyed a US Top 10 entry with ‘Baby Talk’.

Jan And Dean scored several minor hits on Doré, Challenge and Liberty Records over the ensuing four years until a 1963 release, ‘Linda’, heralded a departure in their style. Here the duo completed all the backing voices, while the lead was sung in falsetto. The sound was redolent of the Beach Boys and the two performers’ immediate future became entwined. The Beach Boys’ leader Brian Wilson co-wrote ‘Surf City’, Jan & Dean’s first US number 1 hit; this glorious 1963 summer hit evokes fun, sunshine and ‘two girls for every boy’. Wilson also made telling contributions to several other notable Jan & Dean classics, including ‘Drag City’, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’, ‘The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)’ and ‘Ride The Wild Surf’. Jan Berry’s contributions as writer and producer should not be underestimated, however, with his intricate studio constructions worthy of comparison to the output of his more famed collaborator.

Despite the promise of a television series, and a role in the movie Easy Come, Easy Go, relations between Berry and Torrence became increasingly strained. Dean added fuel to the fire by singing lead on ‘Barbara Ann’, an international hit pulled from the informal The Beach Boys’ Party! The exploitative ‘Batman’ single, released in January 1966, was the last session the pair recorded together for a long time. On 12 April, Jan Berry crashed his Stingray sports car receiving appalling injuries. He incurred severe brain damage and was forced to learn to walk and talk again. Although recovery was slow, the singer did complete a few singles during the 70s for the Ode and A&M Records labels. Torrence kept the Jan And Dean name alive in the late 60s, recording with a number of session singers and completing the interesting Save For A Rainy Day album (issued under the Jan & Dean name). He failed to recapture the duo’s success and subsequently found his true vocation with his highly respected design company, Kittyhawk Graphics.

Berry and Torrence were reunited in 1978 when they undertook the support slot for that year’s Beach Boys tour. A television movie released earlier in the year had helped renew interest in their music. In 1992, the Jan Berry Centre for the Brain Injured was opened to provide art-based rehabilitation treatment. Five years later Berry released the solo album Second Wave. He continued to perform with Torrence on an occasional basis, up until his death in March 2004.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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