Backstage Pass: Dean Torrence reflects on the 50th anniversary of Jan & Dean

As the surviving member of Jan & Dean, Dean Torrence continues to tour keeping the spirit of the Jan & Dean name alive.

Having followed Jan & Dean for over 30 years it was clear to me that the 50th Anniversary was a significant milestone.

In my role as editor and publisher of Endless Summer Quarterly, I was pleased to arrange having Torrence perform at the upcoming Endless Summer Quarterly East Coast Fan Convention Sept. 12, 2009, in Cornelius, N.C., where Dean will be performing a one-of-kind set list that’s not to be missed [see ad on Show Calendar page].

I spoke with Torrence from his home in Huntington Beach, Calif.

It’s been 50 years since you released “Baby Talk” with Jan. The two of you frequented Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” Which appearance stands out the most?

Dean Torrence: They were all as much fun as they could possibly be. You wanted to do Dick Clark’s daytime show, and if you were lucky enough to do his daytime show, and the song that you were pushing started to become a national hit, then you’d be asked to do his Saturday night show, which is the show that you actually did the song on because it was actually becoming a hit. Ultimately, you wanted to be on that Saturday night show.

I think, after a few daytime performances of “Baby Talk” — if I remember it right — we got to perform on Saturday night. A few days later … it was mid-week and we happened to still be in town, and we got a call from Dick and he said, “One of the acts for the following Saturday couldn’t make it, and (for some reason) had to back out.” Dick said, “Would you mind playing the Saturday night show again?” We tried to keep from showing him that we were ready to do some back flips … We told him, “Sure, whatever helps you out Dick; we’re there for you.”

We showed up the following Saturday night to do the same song we performed the Saturday night before. Even if you did the same song it would sell another 2,000-3,000 copies. When we showed up in the dressing rooms, there were all these baskets of candy, fruit and a whole case of Spearmint Gum. There was a card that was in the basket … I still have the card to this day. The card said, “Dear Jan & Dean, thank you for pulling the chestnuts out of the fire.” He really did — I swear to God — make it seem you were doing him a favor. I honestly believe he thought of it that way. It was all fun, but the real kicker was going to “Pop’s Place” and hanging out with all the people who danced on the show. It was right around the corner … It was a famous joint. All the kids knew that’s where the people from the show would come afterwards; it was always jam packed. It was very Philadelphia-esque …

When your sound changed and Jan was using less echo and more musicians, your success continued. What do you attribute to your staying power during that market crossover?

DT: Being flexible I guess. We were willing to go from doo-wop into something else. There was always somebody that we appreciated or were inspired by to help us make that move. As I’m remembering it — at least for me — it was hearing the Four Seasons that I knew that was the direction that we could go in. There’d be less bomps and more singing and vocal parts. Also, the technology caught up, too.

We had two-track tape recorders, where we’d go from machine to machine; soon thereafter we had four-track and we started stacking vocals. When we heard the Four Seasons we realized that we didn’t have to hire background singers to sing that stuff; we could actually multi-track and sing it ourselves. F

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