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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 11:53 pm | Fair 44º


Noozhawk Talks: For George Mamalakis and The Tridents, Surf Music Is Still Their Turf

Local legends return to the Santa Barbara Harbor for two days of Fiesta performances — just like old times

Some of the best Fiesta traditions have absolutely nothing to do with Old Spanish Days. The legendary Santa Barbara surf band, The Tridents, will be riding the wave of 51 years of playing together when it takes the stage this weekend — alongside another great 1960s-era local band, the Duquanes — in front of Chuck’s Waterfront Grill and the Endless Summer Bar Café at the harbor.

The group’s annual Fiesta performances are a favorite tradition for the Tridents’ lead guitar player, George Mamalakis, who came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB in 1962 and made the town his home. He built a business — he is now retired after owning Holser & Bailey Home Entertainment Center on Outer State Street for 39 years — and a family. He and his wife, Mary, are now anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild, which son Jeff and his wife, Melenie, are expecting in November.

“We were one of the original garage bands,” laughed Mamalakis, recalling the band’s humble beginnings in his parent’s Marin County rumpus room/converted garage in the late ‘50’s. Sophomores in high school, aspiring rock ‘n’ rollers and lifelong best friends, Mamalakis and Joe Weis decided to switch from playing the piano and clarinet, respectively, to the “much cooler and louder” electric guitars. They learned the signature three chords of most blues and rock tunes of that era and decided it was time to start a band.

Eighth-grade drum prodigy Gordon MacDermott added a loud, steady beat and, shortly thereafter, electric bass player Mike Hack laid down a booming bottom. They started out playing around the Bay Area as a rhythm and blues/rock ‘n’ roll cover band, Mamalakis explains.

“Two years later we collectively decided to go to UCSB, so basically the band transferred from the Marin County area to Santa Barbara,” he said. (MacDermott, still in high school, would commute every weekend.).

The Tridents reprise an early pose in a 2005 reunion.
The Tridents reprise an early pose in a 2005 reunion. (Mamalakis family photo)

“When we came to UCSB, we could see that surf music was starting to happen and we were right at the forefront of that,” added Mamalakis, citing The Ventures as a strong musical influence.

Hack and Weis pledged SAE fraternity, “so a typical weekend for us was playing a TGIF party, playing a gig that night, playing a beach party the next day and then a party on Saturday night as well,” Mamalakis said.

Then came the concerts at Earl Warren Showgrounds, which would host huge teen dance parties every Friday night and The Tridents had the opportunity to play with big names like The O’Jays, The Rivingtons and The Olympics. They also performed regularly at Surfer Stomps and Rock ‘n’ Roll Shows, and have played with some of the biggest names in instrumental rock and surf music, including The Ventures, The Pyramids, The Marketts, The Lively Ones, The Coasters, Bobby Day and the Righteous Brothers.

Mamalakis considers music to be one of the pleasures of his life.

“My mother was a first-generation Greek in Salt Lake City and, for whatever reason, she became involved in music, and she started the first all-girl orchestra in that area when she was in her late teens,” he said. “Music was always really important to her and she got me involved singing in a church choir at age 3.”

Sound check before The Tridents' 2009 Fiesta performance at the Santa Barbara Harbor. From left, Joe Weis, Gordon MacDermott, George Mamalakis and Mike Hack.
Sound check before The Tridents’ 2009 Fiesta performance at the Santa Barbara Harbor. From left, Joe Weis, Gordon MacDermott, George Mamalakis and Mike Hack. (Mamalakis family photo)

Mamalakis started classical piano lessons when he was in third grade.

“I always consider it to be a huge gift that my mother gave me, because music has meant so much to me throughout my life,” he said.

Now that he is retired, in addition to The Tridents’ occasional get-togethers, Mamalakis can also be heard playing piano in a jazz trio from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Stella Mare’s, 50 Los Patos Way, near the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. He also plays the bouzouki at the annual Santa Barbara Greek Festival in a group called the Village Greeks.

His involvement with the Greek Festival goes back 21 years, the last 16 of which have been spent running the gyro booth, a huge undertaking with constant long lines and 12-14 people working in the booth at all times.

“Last year we made 4,300 gyros in two days,” he said. “It’s a machine; it’s like an assembly line. But it’s a lot of fun.”

George Mamalakis says he and his fellow Tridents have no regrets about not pursuing careers as professional musicians. The four are still fast friends and have attained success in professions other than music.
George Mamalakis says he and his fellow Tridents have no regrets about not pursuing careers as professional musicians. The four are still fast friends and have attained success in professions other than music. (Valorie Smith / Noozhawk photo)

So is being a part of The Tridents, who get together annually for the Fiesta show and also play regularly at SAE and high school reunions.

When asked if The Tridents were ever tempted to try to go big time, Mamalakis demurs.

“As much as we love playing and have stayed close friends, the thing is we were really sort of anchored to our studies and things at UCSB,” he said. “I think we could see that it was a little sketchy about what the future would be as professional musicians.”

Instead, all four men pursued different careers: Mamalakis as a shop owner, Weis is a sociology professor at the University of Washington, MacDermott is the retired general manager for Anchor Brewing Co. and lives in San Rafael, and Hack is a dentist in San Francisco.

“We’ve always had this amazing compatibility that nobody is ever quarreling with or having tension with anybody else,” Mamalakis said. “Everybody seems to have a role. ... The beauty of it is that in each of our capacities we can enjoy the best of both worlds.”


The Tridents share the stage with another 1960s-era band, The Duquanes, for the 11th annual Fiesta event in front of the boats at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill and the Endless Summer Bar Café, 113 Harbor Way. Their 40-minute sets are at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free.

Noozhawk contributing writer Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieDinaberg.

The Tridents, back in the day.
The Tridents, back in the day.

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