Journalist Greene (And You Know You Should Be Glad: A True Story of Lifelong Friendship, 2006, etc.) reports on 15 summers playing with a venerable rock ’n’ roll band.
In 1992, the author was permitted to join the ex-boys in a hot rod/surfers’ band headed by Jan and Dean, survivors in the world of touring oldies packages. Greene traveled and sang and picked with the summer soldiers, whom he came to admire greatly. The California lost boys played “Surfin’ USA” and “Honolulu Lulu” in Elko, Nev., and Blue Ash, Ohio, in fairgrounds, stadiums and casinos. They belted “Little Deuce Coupe” in Lac du Flambeau, Wis., and Burgettstown, Pa., and sang “Ride the Wild Surf” in Cassopolis, Mich., in Fort Wayne, Cambridge and Roanoke. There were overnights in Quality, Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday and Hampton Inns, rations of local ice cream, barbecue and cheeseburgers, the fare at White Castles and Waffle Houses. In the heartland, they encountered Elvis impersonators and the real Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. And they met America. The devoted fans, the rotten gigs and the music were all wonderful. Greene sings of the music and of the brotherhood. He paints moving portraits of Dean Torrence and especially Jan Berry, who suffered grievous injury in a car crash some four decades ago. Underlying the celebration of the band’s skill and perseverance is the poignant story of Jan’s slow fade and Dean’s affectionate care of his partner. Greene’s memoir is, after all, a love story. He recalls the great guitar licks and the happy crowds of those treasured warm-weather months, regularly evoking to good effect “the promise of summer days and summer nights.”
A practiced explorer in the age-old search for sunlit youth, the author here proves himself a sentimental gentleman of rock ’n’ roll.