Santa Catalina Island has inspired artists and musicians for generations. The Channel Island’s natural beauty and serenity as well as the fact that it’s, well, an island seems to motivate the muse for many.
In the 1950s, that muse was motivated for Bruce Belland and Glen Larson who wrote 26 Miles. The song was recorded with the other two members of the Four Preps and the rest was history. 26 Miles (Santa Catalina) reached number two on the Billboard Top 100 in 1958 and has become an earworm for hundreds of thousands of people ever since.
Belland, who learned to play the ukelele at 15 while he was recovering from a broken ankle, used the four chords he knew on the instrument for the opening of the song. Its infectious lyrics brought renewed national prominence to Catalina Island’s reputation as “the Island of romance, romance, romance, romance.”
The relevance of 26 Miles didn’t end with bringing renewed popularity to this Southern California island. It also inspired a band that would become synonymous with Southern California beach culture and a musical icon of laid-back life. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett were both heavily influenced by the song.
As for the song’s on-going influence? Ask anyone how far the island is from the mainland and they’ll tell you, “26 miles.” Except that it’s not. It just sounded good.