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Book Review: When We Get to Surf City – A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams by Bob Greene

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Bob Greene's books make me nostalgic for a past that I never knew. He brought the Homefront to life in Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen. His novel, All Summer Long, made me want to take off across country. And he manages to bring the music world of the 1960s to life in When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams.

In 1992, Greene opened a letter from Gary Griffin, another reader who was caught up in his book, Be True to Your School. Griffin, who made his living as a musician with Jan and Dean's touring band, noticed an entry in that diary of 1964 about Greene's purchase of one of their albums. He invited Greene to meet the band, and suddenly Greene's life, and his summers, took a dramatic change. For the next 15 years, Bob Greene spent his summers meeting up with Jan and Dean and their band so he could first watch, and then perform, with them.

In midlife, Greene found himself living a dream. Each summer he escaped with a group of "Lost Boys" — men who lived to play and sing on stage — and enjoy their own company. In fine detail, Greene discusses life on the road, the good and the bad. He met the idols of his teen years, the Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, the Everly Brothers, and, of course, Jan and Dean. He tells the tragic story of Jan Berry, his car accident, and the changes in his life and career. At the same time, Greene observed Jan's courage, and his determination.

Every time I read Bob Greene's books, I feel as if I'm reading my husband's past. Greene is about the same age, and shares similar memories of rock and roll, small town Ohio, and growing up in the fifties and sixties. Greene and my husband could both be "Lost Boys," still searching for their youth. Bob Greene is able to bring that past vividly to life. He's also unashamed to talk about the small details of male friendship, something most men never talk about. In all of his books — and When We Get to Surf City is no exception — Bob Greene "captures the freedom and the exhilaration and the blithesome mornings of our world."

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About Lesa Holstine

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/gordon_hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    As someone who grew up a few blocks away from the Beach Boys’ Wilson brothers in Hawthorne, Calif., I sometimes feel like a “Lost Boy,” too. Thanks for an evocative and well-written review.

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