Flashback: Jan & Dean ride wave to No. 1

By Chris M. Junior

In 1962 and 1963, California surf music was riding a national wave of popularity, as a bunch of surf acts from the Golden State found themselves in the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The instrumental “Pipeline” by The Chantay’s peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, and the mostly instrumental “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris went to No. 2 on the chart that same year.

Of course, The Beach Boys were the undisputed superstars of surf rock stars during those years, not only charting the most songs but actually having a bunch of Hot 100 hits with the word “surf” in the title.

But the first California surf-rock act to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 was Jan & Dean, when their hit “Surf City” reached the top spot in July 1963.

Legend has it that Lou Adler, the duo’s manager at the time, suggested they record some surf songs, so Jan Berry and Dean Torrence reached out to Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson. According to Torrence, Wilson played them two songs. One was “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” which Wilson was not willing to part with. But he did give them a song in progress called “Surf City,” which Berry helped Wilson finish.

“Surf City,” released on the Liberty label, spent two weeks at No. 1 and was bumped from the top by The Tymes‘ “So Much in Love.” Jan & Dean would go on to have two other Top 40 pop hits with the word “surf” in the title: “Ride the Wild Surf” (No. 16, 1964) and “Sidewalk Surfin'” (No. 25, 1964).

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