It was back in July 2016, not long after the passing of former student turned saxophonist Brian Lyons (1956), that the fascinating story of The Tridents – almost certainly this nation’s first OP-centric rock band – was revealed in this forum.
At the time, a fabulous photograph also surfaced of the original members of The Tridents jamming at The Beatnik Club in Brunswick in 1960 – clockwise from left, Peter Roberts (1956) (drums), Brian Lyons (1956) (sax), Dave Propert (rhythm guitar), Kevin Hall (lead guitar), Max Barker (keyboard) and Paul Power (1956) (vocals) up front.
And whilst there’s no known footage of the band in existence, the ex-drummer has graciously availed more precious photographs of The Tridents, together with fabulous reel to reel audio recordings (since digitized) of three covers performed by the band – Roy Head’s and Gene Kurtz’s ‘Treat Her Right’ (featuring Paul Power on vocals), Greg Quill’s and Kerryn Tolhurt’s ‘Gypsy Queen’ (featuring Terry Dillon (1962) on vocals) and Lonnie Mack’s instrumental ‘Memphis’.
The origins of The Tridents make for interesting reading, as Peter outlined.
“When I left Parade in 1955 at 14 years of age my school friend Paul (Power) mentioned that he played in an Irish Pipe Band, the ‘Irish National Pipe Band’ that was based in Melbourne,” Peter said.
“Paul suggested that I might consider joining as a trainee drummer. Being at a loose end, I accepted the invitation and joined the band as a side drummer. At that time there were four young OPs in the Pipe band - Paul Power, Brian Lyons, John Lappin, and myself.
“When we turned 18, Brian and I decided that we were going to become ‘proper’ musicians. I purchased a drum kit and Brian purchased a saxophone. For months, we took lessons and practiced every day. We had no firm, realistic aims of becoming professionals. It just satisfied our youthful dreams. Don’t forget that for young folk, long term planning is next week.”
Peter recalled that about a year or so later, he was invited to join a newly-formed pop band.
“They needed a drummer and I attended weekly rehearsals. The musical and vocal skills were very amateurish, and I invited both Brian and Paul to come along, Brian for his saxophone, and Paul (ex-Cathedral Choir) for his fine singing of Buddy Holly songs,” Peter said.
“From this bunch of irregulars, came a truly fine rock band, ‘The Tridents’ and to further enhance our performances, we recruited another OP, Terry Dillon, as a very handsome singer.
“Our line-up then was ‘Peter, Paul and Terry’ . . . oh, and not forgetting Brian as well!”
For the four Old Paradians who made up The Tridents, this was the beginning of a beautiful musical journey.
“We happily and very profitably became professionals, for more than 15 years, appearing at many Town Hall dances in Melbourne,” Peter said.
“We had a list of more than 350 songs and instrumentals, and we performed at more than 1000 events. For example, The Tridents packed 500-plus young people into the Springvale Town Hall every Saturday night for more than 10 years.
“Those were such happy times for we four Old Paradians, plus a few, exceptional musos who were recruited to join The Tridents.”
In a previous interview, Paul Power shared his precious recollections of The Tridents, revealing that Brian and Peter, together with Barker whom Peter met while undertaking National Service, formed the band, then unnamed, in 59.
“They used to practice in a hall at Buckley Park, between Essendon and Keilor,” Paul said. “I think it was an RSL Hall and they used it because it had a piano in it - and because the keyboard player, who knew Peter from their national service days, lived out that way in Pascoe Vale.”
Paul remembered that Peter volunteered Brian’s name as The Tridents’ sax player, at a time when they also had about six guitar players, “one of whom thought he could sing when nobody else thought he could”.
“Then one day Brian and Peter invited me to attend a practice. During that practice they made the call ‘Let’s do Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode’, knowing the then vocalist didn’t know the song, but I did. So I ended up singing the song and became the lead singer.”
Paul remembered that The Tridents’ first paid-up gig took place “at somebody’s work do at an oval in Warrandyte”. That happened in May 1960 and the rock band played on for 15 years.
“I’m not even sure that the band had a name at that first gig, but Peter came up with it,” Paul confessed. “At the time there was a brand of petrol called Neptune, and the sign carried a picture of Neptune holding his trident. Peter thought it was a good idea to carry the trident name.”
Paul also recalled that Brian left The Tridents after a year or two to join another group, The Planets, and Peter followed suit a few years later. Paul then bid adieu to The Tridents in ’75, and the band continued for six months or so before disbanding, although the pipe band continued until the late 1970s – early 1980s.
“In those days of a Saturday night The Tridents would play at Springvale and The Planets at Moorabbin, “ Paul said. “These were the dance nights, as you’ve got to remember back then that the pubs didn’t open their doors to rock music until the late 1960s.
“In the early days we were playing a lot of Bill Haley, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, and towards the end we were playing Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Diamond.
“For the most part it was fun. At peak, we were playing five nights a week, at places like the Newmarket Theatre, the Brunswick Town Hall and we did Ballarat every second Wednesday for many years. Then, when the pubs opened we played at places like the Village Green. At one stage, four Old Paradians were playing in that band, Brian, Peter, Terry Dillon and myself.”
The surviving members of The Tridents were reunited in 1984 and again in 2008, but Paul very much doubts another get-together. He does however have in his keep those precious recordings on reel to reel, now digitised for the listening pleasure of The Tridents’ groupies of tomorrow.
(above) The Tridents jamming at The Beatnik Club in Brunswick back in 1960 – clockwise from left, Peter Roberts (1956) (drums), Brian Lyons (1956) (sax), Dave Propert (rhythm guitar), Kevin Hall (lead guitar), Max Barker (keyboard) and Paul Power (1956) up front.
(above) The Tridents at Huntingdale, 1960.
(below) Peter Roberts (1956) on the drums at Springvale Town Hall, circa 1965.
(below) 'Peter, Paul and Terry' at The Tridents reunion, 2008.
images courtesy Peter Roberts and Paul Power