Rock of Ages – 50 years after they first started gigging in S.B., The Tridents return

Although it may be hard for a young band to believe, not all groups in the 1960s had aspirations for fame, fortune and a record contract. For some, it was just a great job. For band members of The Tridents, an instrumental surf band that rocked Santa Barbara regularly from 1962 to 1966, it was the time of their lives.

Inspired by The Ventures (“Walk Don’t Run” and the “Hawaii 5-0” theme song), The Tridents became a go-to dance band for Santa Barbara’s youth scene. The members have all kept in touch over the years, and now, this Friday and Saturday, they will celebrate 50 years of playing together with a concert at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill. Also on the bill is The Duquanes, a vocal group that has been around for 48 years.

George Mamalakis, who also appeared in Scene last week in his guise as head marketer for the Greek Festival in Oak Park, was once part of an eight-piece dance orchestra in his native Marin County high school, where he played piano. His friend Joe Weis played clarinet. Both left to pick up guitars and rock out, learning songs in George’s mom’s “rumpus room.” Along with George McDermott, then an eighth grader and a drum prodigy, and bass player Mike Hack, the group first formed as The Tempests.

They played Chuck Berry and other rhythm and blues. But when they heard The Ventures, with Nokie Edwards’ reverb-drenched, plucked and whammy-bent guitar leads, they knew exactly what to do. By the time the four had all moved from the Bay Area to attend UCSB, surf music had exploded, and The Tridents were born. It was 1962.

“There weren’t that many bands around at the time,” says Mamalakis, “and that’s why we got so much work, as well. We were very fortunate and very well-known.”

In a university of 4,500 students, the band became instantly recognizable on campus, but despite their music, none of the four were surfers.

Even at that level, the work schedule for The Tridents was busy. Weekends saw four or five gigs, whether they be fraternity or sorority parties, dances at Earl Warren Showgrounds and UCSB’s Robertson Gym or picnics in the park using Honda generators. Their repertoire was nearly 120 songs full and ready to take any request.

“We were very, very busy,” he says. “And we were full-time UCSB students at the time.”

Their efforts got them into the Musicians Union, with cards from Local 6, in 1963. All four members still own their cards.

Real life broke up the band, though nobody had any illusions about their prospects.

“We realized that it was going to be pretty rare for a bantd like us to make it big,” Mamalakis says.

Weis is now a professor of sociology and a world-renowned criminologist. Mike is a dentist up in San Francisco, and McDermott was the general manager for Anchor Brewing Company.

But the band has gotten back together several times for high school and fraternity reunions. About 10 years ago, the group started popping up during Fiesta and later at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill. That started a little tradition of a “mini Fiesta” down there. Once again, The Tridents return to Chuck’s.

During the 1960s, the band never recorded a single, and Mamalakis says that although a live recording may exist on Ampex reel-to-reel tape, he has no idea where it might be. They have recorded recently, however, and their CDs will be on sale at the show. All the better, says Mamalakis.

When: 8-10 p.m. tonight and Saturday
Where: Chuck’s Waterfront Grill, 113 Harbor Way
Cost: Free

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