Singing legend Dean Torrence reminisces in Huntington Harbour

Seal Beach author/historian Mike Heywood with singing sensation Dean Torrence. Photo by Chris MacDonald

Legendary musician/actor/artist/author Dean Torrence, 81, recently spoke about the early days of performing hit songs as part of the dynamic Jan & Dean duo and their long friendship with the Beach Boys. The 30-year Huntington Beach resident, whose hit, “Surf City,” is the official song of that coastal town, spoke at a recent Kiwanis Club meeting at Buon Gusto Italian Cuisine and Deli.

“Surf City,” written by Brian Wilson and Jan Berry, including phrases from Torrence, became the Country’s #1 Record in 1963. It was the first surf song to reach #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Torrence helped Visit HB trademark “Surf City USA.”

Jan & Dean were pioneers of the California Sound and their vocal surf music style has influenced numerous bands and is still popular today. “I think one reason it’s still so popular is that it’s attached to a simpler era that’s long gone,” Torrence said. “The music is part of the soundtrack of millions of peoples’ lives.”

The popular SoCal singers went on to record many huge hits, such as Dead Man’s Curve, Little Old Lady From Pasadena, Honolulu Lulu. The Beach Boys were influenced by them and vice versa. They performed together many times.

“In 2018, Dean traveled to Sacramento with a large group of us to support a Senate vote on having an annual California Surfing Day (Sept. 20),” said Mike Posey, a Kiwanian and Huntington Beach mayor pro tem. “State Senator Janet Nguyen introduced the Resolution that was passed overwhelmingly.”

“What an adept story teller he is,” said Kiwanis historian and noted author Mike Heywood, who’s working on a Seal Beach history book. “I was hanging on his every word as he shared many cool anecdotes about his involvement and interaction with his singing partner Jan, as well as the Beach Boys, who they collaborated with on several hits!” Heywood is a former tenor saxophone band performer from the 1960s.

“Wow, what a life Dean has lived!” said Surfing Kiwanian Bob Slater, whose dad and step mom live in Seal Beach. “I grew up in the 1960s loving Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys music. It keeps you young just thinking about it.”

Many people don’t know that Torrence, who majored in advertising design at USC, is a Grammy Award-winning album designer. He’s created such classic covers for top stars like The Beach Boys, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Martin and The Temptations. The busy, friendly fellow still performs with the Surf City All Stars and is an author of several books.

“It was such a pleasure to have Dean Torrance speak at our meeting.” said Van Vu, president elect of the Kiwanis Club and Huntington Harbour commissioner. “I love his music and he’s such an icon in the surf culture.”

“Dean is an absolute HB treasure,” said Shawn Wood, the club’s immediate past president. “The stories and history about Surf City and it’s ties to our area and how it came to be, were remarkable.”

Torrence has been in several movies and TV Shows and is on the Board of Visit HB.