Dead Man’s Curve

The Rock ’n’ Roll Life of Jan Berry


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About the Book

Jan Berry, leader of the music duo Jan & Dean from the late 1950s to mid-1960s, was an intense character who experienced more in his first 25 years than many do in a lifetime. As an architect of the West Coast sound, he was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s original rebels—brilliant, charismatic, reckless, and flawed. As a songwriter, music arranger, and record producer for Nevin-Kirshner Associates and Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Berry was one of the pioneering self-produced artists of his era in Hollywood. He lived a dual life, reaching the top of the charts with Jan & Dean while transitioning from college student to medical student, until an automobile accident in 1966 changed his trajectory forever. Suffering from brain damage and partial paralysis, Jan spent the rest of his life trying to come back from Dead Man’s Curve.
His story is told here in-depth for the first time, based on extensive primary source documentation and supplemented by the stories and memories of Jan’s family members, friends, music industry colleagues, and contemporaries. From the birth of rock to the bitter end, Berry’s life story is thrilling, humorous, unsettling, and disturbing, yet ultimately uplifting.

About the Author(s)

Mark A. Moore is a technical writer for the North Carolina Department of Information Technology and he has written various articles and album liner notes about Jan & Dean. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Mark A. Moore
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 525
Bibliographic Info: 195 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7210-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4333-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Prologue: Tuesday, April 12, 1966 3
1. Some Genius or a Very Clever Criminal 7
2. If Ricky Nelson Can Do It… 21
3. The Real Musician in the Bunch 34
4. Kids Swarmed the Aisles and Screamed 44
5. Good Things Happened Quickly 54
6. Pandemonium 64
7. ­Nevins-Kirshner Associates and Aldon Music 77
8. More than Most People Can Do 89
9. Screen Gems and a Righteous Trip to Surf City 101
10. A Surf Scene with Music and Medicine 120
11. One of the Finer Arrangers in the Business 138
12. Big, Fat Frothy Records 161
13. Pop Symphony 183
14. Easy Come, Easy Go 196
15. Crazy Hours, On the Run 206
16. The Death Instinct 218
17. Dead Man’s Curve 231
18. Some Very Ingenious Stuff 251
19. There Is Promise 263
20. Impulse Disorder 282
21. Life Can Have a Higher Meaning 297
22. In a Carnival of Sound 312
23. Hitch a Ride to Hollywood 325
24. Music Is Power 337
25. Sing Sang a Song 351
26. Rock Drama 365
27. Aloha, America 378
28. On the Run Again, with Papa & the Bandits 394
29. WJB, Inc. 407
30. Chapel of Love 420
31. Second Wave 431
32. Cleaning Up the Past 448
Epilogue: Friday, March 26, 2004 454
Appendix A: Jan Berry’s Chart Singles and Chart Albums as an Artist, Songwriter, Arranger, and Record Producer, 1958–1966 465
Appendix B: Jan Berry’s Work as an Artist, Songwriter, Arranger, and Record Producer Outside of Jan & Arnie and Jan & Dean, 1958–1966 469
Appendix C: Jan Berry’s Music in Film, 1964–2020 472
Appendix D: Jan Berry Timeline, 1941–1966 474
Bibliography 477
Index 487

Book Reviews & Awards

• Certificate of Merit, Best Historical Research in Recorded Rock or Popular Music—ARSC

• “Moore, an avid Jan and Dean buff, has written the definitive biography of Jan Berry…. Draw[s] from dozens of interviews and an exhaustive survey of existing materials…A comprehensive, accurate, and balanced account of a rock icon who was talented, impulsive, and driven, though sometimes difficult and dismissive. Crammed with minutia and drawn-out stories, this work will appeal to rock fans.”—Library Journal

• “[Mark A. Moore] has written what is surely the definitive biography of Jan Berry—scrupulously researched and rich in color and detail. …a meticulous account of Berry’s life without any missing pieces or chronological holes. It’s an incredible story…The triumphs and tragedies of his life, the highs and the lows, the thrills and the pain, make [this work] one of the most compelling music biographies you’ll ever read.”—Ugly Things

• “A highly detailed account of the life and times of Jan Berry…with this comprehensive study (which was more than two decades in the making), Moore has created a masterwork that will stand as a primary go to source for its vaunted subject matter. Essential.”—Blitz, the Rock and Roll Magazine for Thinking People

•“Essential…Bravo to author Mark A. Moore…a non-stop, page turning thrill ride that no self-respecting musical bookshelf should be without…highest recommendations.”—Elliot Kendall, Film & Music Promoter, EK Media & Marketing, Santa Monica, California

• “Definitive Jan biography…great reading…both inspirational and harrowing…a feast for fans…The section of the book dealing with Jan’s rise to fame is like reading about the greatest frat party of all time set to a killer soundtrack. If the goal here was to enrich the experience of listening to those Jan & Dean records once more or to encourage the uninitiated to think about them (and Jan) seriously for the first time, then I’d recommend you check out the book. It’s a heck of a story . . . and a lot more than what they could ever fit into a made-for-TV movie.”—Endless Summer Quarterly

• “One of the best books about music I’ve ever read . . . By far the best thing I’ve ever read about [Jan & Dean] and the horrible [car] wreck. Can’t imagine how much time and work went into it…this is a great book. This guy researched the dickens out of it. It’s an easy read…And keep in mind, I don’t endorse many books, but this one’s really good. And great photographs that he managed to scratch up from family members and friends. Pictures that I’ve never seen before.”—Scott Shannon, Deejay, WCBS-FM 1011, New York City, and the syndicated True Oldies Channel (United Stations Radio Networks).

• “This one is a page-turner. I’m not kiddin’ ya. This is really well researched. I learned everything I ever need to know about Jan & Dean, especially Jan Berry.. . . I’ll tell you what. I couldn’t put it down. Wonderful. I recommend it.”—Scott Shannon, Deejay, WCBS-FM 1011, New York City, and the syndicated True Oldies Channel (United Stations Radio Networks).