Jan & Dean was a group from the early ’60s that contributed to the early surf rock music, alongside bands like The Beach Boys and Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. The rollicking strums were what caught the ears of Brian Wilson and got him collaborating with the duo early in the ’60s.
Comprised of William Jan Berry and Dean Torrance, the guys made waves with hits like “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” History hasn’t been kind to the band, as they’ve been lost in time and overshadowed by the Beach Boys. It’s quite ironic, considering the two covered each other’s works multiple times over the course of a couple years, and were good friends to boot.
But such collaboration gave us all some of Jan and Dean’s greatest hits, after all is said and done. And interestingly, at the time of their greatest heights, as far as music was concerned, the guys were only doing it part-time.
You see, both guys were enrolled in college at that point: Jan was a true-blue Bruin, studying science and music classes at UCLA, and was later to become a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and joined the California College of Medicine, now known as the UC Irvine School of Medicine, in 1963. Unfortunately, his studies were later stopped by the fatal accident he had a few years later.
Dean joined USC, the fiercely rival school across town. He became a member of Phi Sigma Kappa, and was a graduate of the school of architecture, where he majored in advertising design.
But they were still prolific musicians, producing some terrific hits in their day. One of them was the one we have for you today, as part of Tuning Thursdays: “Hot Stocker,” centered on the exploits of a 1957 Chevy that the boys are truly proud of.
The song describes in no uncertain detail the greatness of the ’57 Chevy, as it conquers at the drag strip where “she places every week number one in her class.” Some of the better features described are the “two-eighty-three” engine, the Racemaster “slicks,” the locked rear end differential, and fuel injection. A fearsome estimated time of “ten-point-nine” gets us quaking in our boots as well.
Today, the song takes on a different tone, as it plays itself like a fine tribute to the gearheads of yesteryear. Guys who had the spare time and money to devote toward building a master-class ride to compete at the local track. It’s quite wistful, but lighthearted and happy enough to make you wanna dance with your favorite girl.
Fortunately for them and us, there are still many dragsters who carry the torch of those fun and fancy-free days. True, it’s become more regulated and marginalized by committees and society, but the spirit is still there: that connection between man and machine, that bond and love for what a car and its driver/mechanic can accomplish despite the obstacles that lie in the way. The song we’ve listened to today gets you happy and perhaps just a little on edge, as you await the chance to prove yourself against the mythical “Hot Stocker.”