Dean Torrence , better known as half of the rock and roll duo, Jan & Dean were popular from the late 1950s through the mid 1960s, consisting of William Jan Berry (April 3, 1941 – March 26, 2004) and Dean Ormsby Torrence (born March 10, 1940). Although Jan & Dean pre-dated The Beach Boys, they became most famously associated with the vocal "surf music" craze inspired by The Beach Boys.
Jan Berry and Dean Torrence first became friends on the football team at L.A.'s University High, but Dean's first success came with Arnie Ginsburg (not the Boston DJ); the duo scored a big doo-wop hit as Jan and Arnie with 1958's "Jennie Lee." That song, actually written about a stripper, gained Berry some friends in the business, including Herb Alpert and producer Lou Adler. Together with friend Torrence, who'd just returned from an Army stint, they developed a song called "Baby Talk."
It was also a smash, but it wasn't until 1963, with the release of the Four Seasons-inspired "Linda," that the Jan and Dean sound began to take shape. When the Beach Boys began their climb to superstardom, Jan & Dean changed gears and followed suit with a series of surf and hot rod hits that featured falsetto harmonies, chugging guitars, and Jan Berry's clean production. Brian Wilson himself sang backup vocals on their biggest hit (which he co-wrote with Jan), "Surf City," in 1963. "Surf City" became the first surf song to hit number one on the Billboard national charts.
Dean Torrence's wit and on-stage antics earned them a reputation as the Marx Brothers of surf music. Musically, you'd be hard pressed to separate their string of surf/car hits from the Beach Boys. Small wonder, as most have Brian Wilson and the boys helping out in some way.
Surf, cars and the California life-style were the "in thing" in the early 1960's, and the hits kept piling up for Jan and Dean, including,"Sidewalk Surfin'," "New Girl In School", "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena," and "Dead Man's Curve".
The duo flourished well into the mid-Sixties, weathering even the British Invasion. But on April 12, 1966, Berry's Stingray slammed into a parked gardener's truck (not at the site mentioned in "Dead Man's Curve," despite legend).The Paramedics that arrived on the scene thought he was dead. They checked his vital signs and found he was still alive, but just barely. They cut him out of the car and rushed him to the nearby UCLA Hospital where he underwent numerous major brain surgeries. He was in a deep coma for weeks and the doctors were not very optimistic at all about the outcome.
Jan entered a decade-long nightmare of physical recovery, drug abuse, and depression.Like the fighter he is, Jan Berry beat the odds. He emerged out of the coma unable to walk or talk, but he pushed himself hard and with the help of his parents, friends and the many talented doctors and therapists, he made a
remarkable recovery. He was still partially paralyzed on his right side, and still had trouble putting some words and thoughts together, but he was able to sing relatively well. The part of the brain where music comes from was not that badly damaged. It was a very long process and it took 7 years before Jan & Dean could even attempt to sing again on stage, and another 5 years before they were ready to try an official comeback.
In the mean time, Dean formed the successful Kittyhawk Graphics, responsible for over 200 album cover designs including "The Turtles Golden Hits", nine for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and several for Harry Nilsson in the 1970s. He would win a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover of the Year in 1972 for the LP "Pollution" by the group of the same name and was nominated three more times. Jan's health had improved enough that by the spring of 1983, he got married. Still, he remained partially paralyzed on his right side, and his speech was difficult to follow, but he recovered sufficiently to record a few singles, including "Fun Fun Fun" in 1986 and "Save For A Rainy Day" in 1996, but neither met with much success.
Into the 2000s, the team continued to concentrate on live appearances with their back-up band, The Belair Bandits. Sadly, Jan Berry died on March 26th, 2004, after after suffering a seizure at his home. He was a week away from his 63rd birthday.
Torrence now tours occasionally with the Surf City All-Stars. He serves as a spokesman for the City of Huntington Beach, California, which, thanks in-part to his efforts, is nationally recognized as "Surf City USA." Dean's website, Jan & Dean, features—among other things—rare images, a complete Jan & Dean discography, a biography, and a timeline of his career with cohort Jan Berry. He currently resides in Huntington Beach, California, with his wife and two daughters.
(Info edited from various sources mainly classicbands.com)