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Papa Doo Run Run

rock performers/recording artists category

By Jud Cost
As the British Invasion reached a fever pitch in 1965, every American garage band seemed intent on emulating the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds or the Kinks. And the four kids from Cupertino who would one day become Papa Doo Run Run were no different from their peers. But deep down they harbored a secret desire to play something else. And it didn't come from England.

To Don Zirilli, Jim Rush, Stevie Dromensk and Jim Shippey the holy grail was the goosebump-inducing sound of the Beach Boys. This quartet worked endlessly to perfect those four-part harmony vocals so they could recreate the Beach Boys' songbook: vest-pocket symphonies about cars, girls, surf, going steady, the beach and cruising the drive-in on Saturday night—in short, to live the California dream. And for Papa Doo Run Run the dream would eventually come true. They did it all! They played with their musical idols, made hit records, toured the world, appeared in a Jan & Dean bio-pic, enjoyed a long-standing residency at Disneyland as the house band—and they were nominated for a Grammy (Editing In A Digital Domain) for their sparkling 1985 Telarc LP California Project.

Before they caught that perfect wave, however, the guys began life as the Zu by playing their first gig in 1965 at a San Jose State frat house at the corner of Fourth and William. A 1967 name change to Goodie Two Shoes didn't quite fit, so in 1971 they poached the doowop-style vocal backing riff from Jan & Dean's 1964 hit "The New Girl In School" and became Papa Du Run Da Run. With a (perhaps unintentional) nod to the Crystals' 1963 Phil Spector-produced hit "Da Doo Ron Ron," the name was soon shortened to Papa Doo Run Run.

Papa's wholesale conversion to the solid gold Beach Boys sound came about quite by accident in 1971. When headlining act Tower of Power was late for a gig, Goodie Two Shoes volunteered to do an extra 30-minute set of nothing but Beach Boys songs. 1971 was a decidedly down period for the Beach Boys, about to play their first U.S. shows in years after signing to Warner Bros. But the crowd went bananas, and the Cupertino boys took the plunge by immediately changing their name. The rest was history.

In 1973 Papa Doo Run Run met Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, who introduced them to Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, the man who would produce Papa's hit single on RCA, "Be True To Your School." The flipside, the Johnston-penned "Disney Girls" got the boys' foot in the door at Disneyland, an association that lasted for 15 years. One night at the Anaheim amusement palace found both Brian and Carl Wilson, as well as Dean Torrence, jamming onstage with Papa Doo Run Run. That magical event may have landed Papa the gig as Jan & Dean's backing band from 1976-80, a role they also played in Deadman's Curve, the critically-acclaimed 1978 TV docu-drama detailing the return to performance of Jan Berry after a near-fatal 1966 car crash. 

From wishing they could play surf music in 1965 to actually doing it for 40 wildly successful years, it's been a great ride for these Cupertino natives. The only thing left for their resumé was well-deserved acclamation by their home base. And now all Papa Doo Run Run's summer dreams have finally come true.

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