Officially Endorsed By Dean O. Torrence (c)2004-2014 MGA
Updated whenever we can!!!
This article originally appeared in Blitz No. 18 January 1977
1977 finds Jan Berry with a new band - Downing, Tripp & Middler. Members include lead guitarist Paul Downing, bass player Peter Tripp. Joe Middler on piano and flute, and 21-year-old Chad McCall on drums. The band played their second gig with Jan at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California on January 11. After a brief acoustic set by Joe Middler, the band played a 4-song medley to a very enthusiastic crowd. But where was Jan, everybody wondered, as the band coaxed him on stage with a BB King styled version of his monster classic Surf City. Jan ran on the stage to put an end to that blues nonsense once and for all, as he and the band romped through Surf City,(the right way), Dead Man’s Curve, Sidewalk Surfin’, Linda, Honolulu Lulu, Ride the Wild Surf, That’s The Way It Is, and The Little Old Lady From Pasadena. Jan Berry has never looked or sounded better, and he and the band are certain to be a major musical force to be reckoned with.
Jan Berry is a very luck man. In 1966, he was involved in an auto accident that left him partially paralyzed with some brain damage. Through extensive therapy and pure guts and determination, the first half of the legendary Jan & Dean team is back on the road again, defying all odds that said his survival of the ordeal was practically impossible.
MM: I was very impressed by your show. You sounded better than ever.
JB (Jan Berry): Gee, you sound just like my mother.
MM: Do you have any plans for a nationwide tour?
JB: You’d better discuss that with Paul, because he knows all the details. It might be early February, but I’m not sure, Paul?
(Paul Downing): PD: Well, there are several different agencies putting things together, and yes, we should be out on the road in the beginning of February. We open in Las Vegas next week, and a lot rides on that gig.
MM: I was wondering about some of the recent material you’ve done for Ode Records, which I felt was unjustly underrated. I’ve only seen DJ copies of most of them. Were they ever released commercially?
JB: No, they just put out DJ copies, but I don’t believe they ever got released. There were two songs, Mother Earth and Sing Sang a Song that were promotinally pushed, but they never followed up on it.
PD: The main reason behind that was because Jan didn’t have his own band together at that time. We have a new single. I can’t tell what the A-side is yet, because it’s an old Chuck Berry song, done kind of surfy, but there’s a really strange talking bit done by Jan in the middle sixteen bars, and then a full string quartet comes in. It’s really unsual: we’re mixing that down right now.
JB: I played it for Chuck Berry recently, and he really like it.
MM: Whatever happened to the little old lady from Pasadena?
JB: Dean and I were in Pasadena. We saw this "girl” there, about 60 or 70 years old, and took her picture to be on our album. She was really healthy for her age. I was thinking that I ought to write her a song, so we sat down one day and did it.
PD: And you haven’t seen her since?
JB: Well, she died a few years ago.
MN: Her name was Katherine Milner, wasn’t it?
JB: Yeah, that’s right.
PD: Tonight at dinner, Jan’s brother Brian, who is our road manager, said Jan wrote the tune about their aunt, right Jan?
JB: That’s true.
PD: She was a 250 pound lady. Then they revamped the song for the little old lady who did car advertisements in the 60s.
JB: She was the Dodge lady.
MM: It sounds like the Beach Boys borrowed your concept almost intact for Susie Cincinnati a few years later. So Jan, you’re a pioneer in another way.
JB: I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that song, but that’s good to know. I saw the Beach Boys in concert at the Forum on Yew Year’s Eve. That was quite nice.
MM: I was there, too. I was hoping they might do some of your material.
JB: Well, there was one song they sang, Little Deuce Coupe which I wrote.
MM: Right! I remember that being on one of your first albums. Didn’t the Beach Boys back you and Dean up instrumentally on that one?
JB: Right. And Brian Wilson also sang with us on a lot of our records.
By Mike McDowell
MM: Who would you say your main influences were when you started record?
JB: Well, back in my teenage life at Uni High School we used to go outside on the benches during breaks between classes and start singing. Our friend, Arnie Ginsberg, he had a song he’d written about a girl he knew, Jennie Lee. We like it so much, we wanted to sing it in the school auditorium. We got a piano, and had Arnie banging on the side of it with a stick. And that’s how we got started.
MM: I notice that most people picture you and Dean as a surfing duet. Yet, I detect the makings of a tremendous satire team, if nothing else.
JB: In a way. You have to remember that the surf thing was a long time ago. Today, that surfing sound is still in the music, but on a higher level. We’re not as concerned with the surf itself, as with the basic musical feel.
MM: Do you remember Folk ‘n’ Roll LP?
JB: Yeah, that was one of the last albums we did before my accident.
MM: One song on there, the Universal Coward was the best satire I’ve ever heard. Can you give me some background on it?
JB: Actually that was one of the most easily forgettable songs I’ve ever done.
MM: What about I, which was obviously a take off on Surf City.
JB: We also had a hit called Drag City, if you detect the little parallel there. I think the city syndrome is over with. Now that we’re with A & M Ode Records, we’re working like crazy in the studios now over two songs. I still won’t tell you the A-side yet, but the B-side is That’s The Way It Is.
MM: There was a record released on J&D records in 1967 as Jan & Dean called Louisiana Man. I thought everything on that label was by Dean alone, yet it sounds like you singing on that one. Can you fill me in?
JB: About a week before my accident in 1966, we had just signed with Columbia Records. We did a session that week, and I remember laying down the basic rhythm tracks for that song. I never had the time to put my vocals on it. After the accident, Dean filled in the voice part and released it.
MM: I’ve always felt your best material is that which is least remember. For example, not just your Folk ‘n’ Roll LP, but also the Batman album.
JB: Oh yeah! Roger Christian, a local DJ, helped us out by doing some of the talking parts on the album. Batman was really not at the time, but people didn’t understand our album. So as it ended up, our record was somewhat of a hit, but more not a hit, if you know what I mean. Personally, I fell it’s a great record.
MM: I agree. If anything, you and Dean should be remembered mostly for your contributions to musical satire.
JB: Definetely. That was always our original intention.
MM: What about your Columbia 45, Yellow Balloon? Were you involved with that at all?
JB: No, that was just Dean. It was after my accident, and he just took over. He tried, and I thought it was good. Now he does photography and designs album covers.
MM: Kittyhawk Graphics.
JB: He did the Beach Boys 15 Big Ones album cover, which I thought was very good.
MM: On your Surf City LP, I detect a strong Freddie Cannon influence. Is that true?
PD: Freddie Cannon??
JB: Freddie Cannon! I liked him, expecially when he was recording with Dick Clark for Swan Records. I only met him once, shook hands and said “Hi, how are you?” and that’s about it. He wasn’t a major influence, but he had a basic rock & Roll feel I like. Dick Clark just taped his 25th Anniversary show which I really enjoyed. I was there, along with Sonny & Cher and Cheech & Chong. Cheech & Chong got into a pie fight like Dean and I used to, and I thought that was hilarious.
MM: Speaking of shows, do you remember the TAMI concert?
JB: Sure! Dean and I were the hosts.
MM: Was the TAMI show the same performance that ended upon your Command Performance album?
JB: I’m not sure, but I think it was, for the most part. We had a single from the show. From All Over the World.
MM: Excellent single! Speaking of From All Over the World, do you remember the B-side, Freeway Flyer? It sounded like an attak on the Los Ageles police department. Was this because of something that happened to you personally?
JB: Well, it’s true. I really dislike them (ha), but . . .
PD: Could I interject here? I think anything that Jan recorded was intended to put everyone on - complete satire. I don’t think he ever meant anything against anyone. Just look at their singles. It’s incredible satire, and Freeway Flyer is a prime exampe of it. It’s an early put on protest song.
MM: I’d just like to add one thing. Jan, there is nobody in the history of rock and roll in my book that will ever top Jan and Dean.
JB: But don’t forget Brian Wilson, he's pretty heavy too. If you were to put his songs against mine, I think he’d win. But with me and Dean communicating back and forth, it was really nice.
Publicity still from 1978