In their 1960s heyday, the all-American vocal duo of Jan Berry and Dean Torrence embodied the same California Pop ideal as their friendly rivals the Beach Boys. They scored 16 Top 40 hits, most of them about surfing and drag racing, and laden with infectious choruses, distinctive harmonies, and goofy humor.
The pair shared vocals, but it was Berry who was the duo's main songwriter, vocal arranger, and sonic architect. Berry's talents were sufficiently advanced to earn the admiration of Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, who added vocal harmonies at several Jan and Dean sessions, and gave them his composition "Surf City," which became a No. 1 hit for the twosome in 1963.
Berry and Torrance began singing together as high-school pals, and scored their first hit with 1959's "Baby Talk." Their career really took off after they latched onto the surf-and-drag craze with "Surf City." That breakthrough success was followed by such hits as "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," "Dead Man's Curve," "Honolulu Lulu," "Drag City," "Ride the Wild Surf" and "Sidewalk Surfin'."
Jan and Dean's musical progress was derailed on April 12, 1966, when Berry was severely injured in a Beverly Hills car crash whose circumstances eerily echoed the duo's 1964 hit "Dead Man's Curve." Berry spent two months in a coma and sustained brain damage and partial paralysis, but was able to return to recording and performing after a long and arduous period of rehabilitation. Although Jan's days as a hitmaker and musical innovator were over, Jan and Dean continued to sporadically tour the oldies circuit until Berry's death in 2004. Torrance, meanwhile, carved out a long and successful career as one of the music industry's most in-demand album-cover designers.