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Long before he became known as the Father Of  Woodstock, Artie Kornfeld was a hit songwriter/producer (“The Pied Piper”, “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things”)

When I went to Los Angeles for the first time in 1968 there were three places I wanted to see Malibu Beach, MacArthur Park, and “Dead Man’s Curve”. Now 40 years later, I asked my longtime friend and sometime collaborator to tell me the story behind Jan and Dean’s  “Classic Hit”, and how he co -wrote “Dead Man’s Curve”, with Brian Wilson and Jan Berry.

One day, Brian and I were chilling and trying out this tiny Honda that the company had sent him as a thank you for writing the Hondells “Hey Little Honda.”  We were cruisin’ about 3 miles from his ex-wife, Marilyn’s mom’s house. Brian, as he was known to do, was pushing two hundred pounds way over what a 60 cc Honda could handle. I said Bry you should slow down, as in Santa Monica there is a lot of sand on the streets. We went over and the bike and were torn apart.  We carried half a Honda each 3 miles, bleeding like crazy, to an open door in an empty house.

bry pianoWe noticed a piece of blank paper on the piano and Bry sat down and I pulled up a chair and, I guess because of recent events I wrote down the words, “Dead Mans Curve”.

Brian started a two four piano rhythm but I don’t have any idea for the lyric…except I always envied Jan’s Corvette, sang to Brian’s chords” I was crusin’ in my Sting Ray late one night and an XKE pulled upon the right…” Bran repeated what I wrote down with the melody and I almost finished the lyric in about 30 minutes with me writing the words, some with Brian, as being a New Yorker after I put us on Sunset Blvd.

I had no idea what landmarks we would pass to that curve after Doheny where it turns right and heads into Beverly Hills.

We were laughing and Brian said, lets hear what we have, laughing at the whole trip and tripping on our wipeout still. I jumped up and said Brian stop, “I think we need an accident here”.  He responded “you are nuts Artie”, but stopped and hit a chord, for some reason at that moment I thought of Robert Frost Poem about two roads in the woods and went metaphoric putting in an accident.

In my mind symbolic with the point we make those decisions that may change or end our lives. I wrote something like it says on the record and Brian Started a Kick Ass chorus.korn

In walks the ever great loving talented Jan Berry who with Bry and a little me worked out the complete song. As Jan tightened up the song for a Jan and Dean Record, he was already hearing a finished product.

Jan sat down at a table, hardly touched the piano, except to find the changes and as only Jan with Brian there could do…wrote out the entire arrangement, that as I remember, and was not a note off when we went in with it to play for Lou Adler. It just seems like moments but it was really days later when we went in and recorded it. The reason we had to put DJ Roger Christians name on the song, Lou Adler would know more than I.

The musicians on the date included Glen Campbell, then a tough tee shirted ass kicker on guitar, and Leon Russell (wearing a suit). Then there was Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, the only drummers you could put together, and it came out great.

Of course being about 19 or 20 I could not help but notice Lou’s Fiancée Shelly Faberes, in a very tight sweater. Dean did not show. I did stand behind Bry to get a falsetto sound that was a little different.

When the record came out it was the B side to “New Girl in School”

I guess I did my first promotion as for reasons so few know I reversed the Charts and “New Girl in School” stopped shooting up the charts and “DEAD MANS CURVE” RULED! Brian, Jan and I all lived “Dead Mans Curve” in our separate lives.

I’m really crying a little now as I write.  Love Brian and miss Jan so much still.

Artie Kornfeld

P.S. “69” was the only other time I let someone put their name on something I wrote.”


By Wilson, Kornfeld, Berry, and Christian

I was cruisin’ in my Stingray late one night
When an XKE pulled up on the right
And rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag
And challenged me then and there to a drag
I said, “You’re on, buddy, my mill’s runnin’ fine
Let’s come off the line now, at Sunset and Vine
But I’ll throw you one better if you’ve got the nerve
Let’s race all the way
To Dead Man’s Curve”

Dead Man’s Curve, it’s no place to play
Dead Man’s Curve, you best keep away
Dead Man’s Curve, I can hear ’em say
Won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve

The street was deserted late Friday night
We were buggin’ each other while we sat out the light
We both popped the clutch when the light turned green
You should of heard the whine from my screamin’ machine
I flew past LaBrea, Schwab’s, and Crescent Heights
And all the Jag could see were my six tail lights
He passed me at Doheny then I started to swerve
But I pulled her out and there we were
At Dead Man’s Curve

Dead Man’s Curve, it’s no place to play
Dead Man’s Curve

Well, the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve
And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve
I know I’ll never forget that horrible sight
I guess I found out for myself that everyone was right
Won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve

Dead Man’s Curve, it’s no place to play
Dead Man’s Curve, you best keep away
Dead Man’s Curve, I can hear ’em say
Won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve

Copyright by Screen Gems – Columbia

Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne






Picture at top…Jan and Dean 1964