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Jan And Arnie Jan & Dean Gas Money 1960

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Published on Aug 23, 2012

Jan & Dean were a rock and roll duo, popular from the late-1950s through the mid-1960s, consisting of William Jan Berry, born April 3, 1941, and Dean Ormsby Torrence, born March 10, 1940. Although Jan & Dean pre-dated The Beach Boys, they became most famously associated with the "surf music" craze inspired by The Beach Boys.

It's almost too easy to underestimate the importance of Jan & Dean in the history of rock & roll and its evolution into rock. The mere mention of their name today evokes images of suntanned, California teens dancing and surfing on the beaches of Malibu. The ultimate good-time music act of the early '60s, who only earned one gold record, for their song, "Surf City."{1}

Berry and Torrence, began singing together as a duo after football practice at University High School in Los Angeles. Primitive recording sessions followed soon after in a makeshift studio in Berry's garage. They first performed onstage as, The Barons, at high school dances. (When Torrence had to leave to serve in the Army Reserves, Berry's friend, Arnie Ginsberg filled in.)

Their first commercial success was "Jennie Lee"{2} (1958, #8 on the pop chart), an ode to a local, Hollywood burlesque performer, that Jan Berry recorded with Ginsburg, under the name, Jan & Arnie. Jan & Arnie released three singles in all. After Torrence returned, Berry and Torrence began to make music as Jan & Dean.

With the help of record producers Herb Alpert and Lou Adler, Jan & Dean scored a #10 hit with "Baby Talk"{3} (1959), and then scored a series of hits over the next couple of years. Playing local venues, they met and performed with the Beach Boys.

Berry had been experimenting with multi-part vocal arrangements five years before he started working with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and soon discovered the appeal of the latter's "surf sound." By this time, Berry was co-writing, arranging, and producing all of Jan and Dean's original material.

Berry signed a series of contracts with Screen Gems Records to write and produce music for Jan & Dean, as well as other artists such as Judy & Jill (which included Berry's girlfriend Jill Gibson and Dean Torrence's girlfriend Judy Lovejoy), Pixie (a young female solo singer), The Angels ("I Adore Him," Top 30), The Gents, Shelley Fabares, Deane Hawley, The Rip Chords ("Three Window Coupe," Top 30), and Johnny Crawford, amongst others.

Unlike most other rock & roll acts of the period, Jan & Dean did not give music their full-time attention. Jan & Dean were college students, maintaining their studies while writing and recording music and making public appearances on the side.

Torrence majored in advertising design, in the school of architecture at USC. Berry took science and music classes at UCLA, and entered the California College of Medicine (now the UC Irvine School of Medicine) in 1963.

Jan & Dean reached their commercial peak in 1963-1964. The duo scored an impressive sixteen, Top 40 hits on the [Billboard] and [Cash Box] magazine charts, with a total of twenty-six chart hits over the eight-year period from 1958 to 1966.

Berry and Brian Wilson collaborated on roughly a dozen hits and album cuts for Jan & Dean, including the number one national hit, "Surf City" in 1963. Subsequent top 10 hits included "Drag City"{4} (1963, #10), "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena"{5} (1964, #3), and the eerily portentous "Dead Man's Curve" (1964, #8).

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