“Twenty-six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me,
Santa Catalina, the island of romance,
romance, romance, romance.
Water all around it ev’rywhere,
tropical trees and the salty air,
but for me the thing that’s a-waitin’ there’s romance.”
The song “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)” was released in 1958, and featured on the album The Capitol Collectors Series by the quartet The Four Preps. The song hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100, sold more than one million copies, and was dubbed “the first surfer hit” by Dick Clark.
The Four Preps was a quartet made of four teenage boys at Hollywood High School who were discovered at a school talent show and signed by Columbia Records. The four boys included lead singer Bruce Bellnad, bassist Ed Cobb, high tenor Marv Ingram, and baritone Glen A. Larson.
Belland recounted a dream where he paid a visit to the island but also drew inspiration for the song while bodysurfing at Will Rogers State Beach when a friend stated that Catalina Island was visible from 26 miles across the ocean. Fellow bandmate Larson also shares credit for the lyrics. Other artists, including Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett, have been inspired by the song. The song was also one of many California-themed songs played throughout the “Sunshine Plaza” in the original Disney California Adventure theme park.
“A tropical heaven out in the ocean covered with trees and girls.
If I have to swim, I’d do it forever till I’m gazin’ on those island pearls.
Forty kilometers in a leaky old boat,
Any old thing that’ll stay afloat.
When we arrive we’ll all promote romance, romance, romance.”