The Band Chicago’s Logo Is Based on Coca Cola’s

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60s rocker Dean Torrence on Ruby’s Surf City Diner and how soft drinks influenced his graphic design

Dean Torrence

If the term surf city conjures up images of 1960s California beach fun to you, there’s a reason why: Jan & Dean. As contemporaries of The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean were instrumental in the creation of the California pop sound. Hits like “Dead Man’s Curve,” “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” and the aforementioned “Surf City” remain radio staples today.

These days, Dean Torrence continues to sing with the Surf City All-Stars, but he works on a variety of other projects. His trademark “Surf City” led to his participation in Ruby’s Surf City Diner, a restaurant in Huntington Beach, California, where he’s also the spokesperson. Torrence has also been an in-demand graphic designer for decades and helped create logos and/or album covers for The Beach Boys, Steve Martin, Harry Nilsson, The Ventures, Linda Ronstadt, and Diana Ross. As it turns out, soft drinks played a role in the creation of some of that artwork.

While speaking to Torrence about the new Jan & Dean release for Omnivore Recordings, Filet Of Sole Redux: The Rejected Master Recordings, the opportunity to ask a few Daily Meal-related questions came up.

 

On his restaurant Ruby’s Surf City Diner:
Ruby’s Diners have been around for 25, 30 years and they became experts on putting restaurants on piers. They came to Huntington Beach about 20 years ago, and I was on the marketing board [of Huntington Beach] at the time and they wanted to use the Surf City trademark and incorporate with Ruby’s. So they were going to call it Ruby’s Surf City Diner instead of just Ruby’s Diner. We incorporate some Surf City stuff. We’ll have a neon sign up on the roof that can be read by people flying over in commercial airlines, which is pretty cool.

[The restaurant’s owner has] never had liquor, but he’s thinking about having a tiki bar on the second floor, which has a beautiful ocean view, right out over the ocean. So this is kind of the mecca of surfing and here is this restaurant. It is still right over the water, the people are catching the best waves. It is just perfect.

 

On how branding and food has played into his career:
Consciously or subconsciously, people are usually drawn to a brand if it is working, like Nike’s logo. I always loved Coca-Cola; I mean I love the Coca-Cola logo. Long story short, James Guercio and I got together doing Chicago [design] things because he kind of became their manager and he understood branding. We said, let’s make the Chicago logo look like our favorite Coca-Cola logo.

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Then I applied the whole thing that we did with Chicago to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I formulated a logo for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that was based on Nesbitt, which was another soft drink logo. The “N” for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band came right from the Nesbitt logo.