View Full Version : Teenage Success Story Part 1

02-02-07, 00:28

Jan Berry's Stingray after he crashed into a parked
truck in Bel Aire in 1966. Police were amazed that anyone
survived, but Jan did.


Clockwise: Jan top-left with Dean bottom-right in
high school.
Jan and Dean looking cute
Recent pic of Jan Berry
Early album featuring "Baby Talk"

Jan Berry and Arnie Ginsburg were two rich kids from Bel Aire
California, the same neighborhood where O.J. Simpson
used to live. They attended high school together
and used to sing in Jan's garage where Jan had
two tape recorders and a piano. They called themselves
"The Barons" and produced a song titled "Jenny Lee."
There were no drums so they used a baby's high chair
to hit on with sticks. Jan was having a party soon
and wanted to impress the girls with his own record.
So he and Arnie went to a production studio where
one of the executives heard "Jennie Lee" and put his
own musicians on the tape backing up Jan and Arnie.

The record was cut and "Jennie Lee" (by "Jan and Arnie")
was shopped around to some local radio stations
where it soon became no. 1 in Los Angeles and eventually
it reached no. 10 nationwide!
The success was too much for Arnie who quit music to
pursue college, so Jan invited another school kid, Dean
Torrence to become the singing duo "Jan and Dean."

They soon had another hit with "Baby Talk" which shot up
to no. 1 in 1958. Jan and Dean appeared on American
Bandstand (sort of an early American Idol) and were
on their way. Until then, music performers came from
the East coast - namely Philadelphia and New York, and
performed in suits and ties. Jan and Dean were something new,
with their sweaters and Levi's and blonde hair. With their
good looks, Jan's creative talent and ambition, and now
with Dean's natural singing talent, the team was on its way.

By now they were performing with another
group of California kids called "The Beach Boys." Their
leader, Brian Wilson, was nice enough to give Jan a song
he hadn't finished. Brian's dad was furious that his
son would give his work away for free, but Brian explained
that he wasn't going to finish the song anyway, and he
would get credit as the songwriter, which was always a good
thing. The song was finished and Jan and Dean released
"Surf City" - with catchy lyrics like "Two girls for every boy!"
Other hits followed - "Little Old Lady from Pasadena" and
"Dead Man's Curve."

Then everything stopped suddenly, literally. At the age of 24, Jan
crashed his Stingray into a parked car in Bel Aire. Police
were amazed that anyone had survived, but Jan was still alive -
barely. He was in a coma for 3 weeks and underwent several
brain surgeries. Luckily his music ability was still intact,
but he had a long road to recovery which involved relearning
to speak, among other things. His speech was very slow and
he had trouble getting words out.

But the ambition and energy that Jan brought to music was still
there and he and Dean were able to continue making appearances
and concert perfromances for years to come.

Sadly, Jan Berry passed away in 2004. A remarkable young man
who will always be remembered and missed by his fans.