In late 1966, when Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean needed some songs for a new album, he enlisted the help of Gary Zekley, a talented Los Angeles singer/songwriter/producer Torrence had worked with previously. One of the songs Zekley gave Torrence was called Yellow Balloon and Torrence went on to record it.
Zekley was proud of the song, but didn't like Torrence's recording, so Zekley shopped the song to different labels. Among those who Zekley visited was Ken Handler of Canterbury Records, who was very excited about the song and immediately set about having it recorded. Handler had Zekley do the lead vocals, and brought in noteworthy studio musicians to add circular keyboard lines and a slight tremolo effect on the guitar.
The single was released under the group name The Yellow Balloon, in direct competition to Torrence's version of the single; under the duo's name Jan & Dean, even though Jan Berry was not on the recording, having been in a recent near fatal accident. The Yellow Balloon's version placed at #25 May 20, 1967 on Billboard's Pop-100 charts, while Jan & Dean's version placed at #111. This was due largely to the fact that many disc jockeys around the United States played only the Yellow Balloon version of the song.
There was a lot of excitement with the single (the B-side was the song played backwards, entitled "Noollab Wolley"), along with fervor for the band make an album and perform at various shows. The problem was that there was no actual The Yellow Balloon band. Quickly, Handler elicited the help of Canterbury recording artist Don Grady, a former Mouseketeer, better known at the time as the character Robbie Douglas of the TV series My Three Sons. Grady knew several other musicians, Alex Valdez (lead vocals), Paul Kanella (lead guitar), Don Braucht (bass guitar), and Forrest "Frosty" Green (keyboards), and they were brought in to record the self-titled album. Zekley produced the album and co-wrote eight of the eleven tracks.
The Yellow Balloon album has long been considered a sunshine pop classic; it's the "Yellow Balloon" song that's become the legend.