During the early Seventies, my dad used to play The Kingston Trio’s “Oleanna” on long family car trips. The song, about a singer who climbs the Matterhorn, confronts natives in the Congo, and lands on the moon, still echos through my faintest memories. I was a small child at the time, staring out the car window and wondering what incredible adventures the Kingston Trio were having as I was stuck on Interstate 5, headed to my grandparents’ house in Seattle.
Listen to “Oleanna”
Little did I know, The Kingston Trio may actually have been no further than my own backyard. According to Bob Shane, the last living member of the group, the popular folk team lived in Marin, owned a restaurant in Sausalito, and often got stoned with Janis Joplin and other well-known personalities from the hippie generation. Oh, and Robin Williams served as the Trident’s busboy.
Today Shane lives in Arizona and was kind enough to speak by telephone about his Marin memories:
Jason: Is it true that the Kingston Trio owned the TRIDENT restaurant in Sausalito?
Bob: From 1960 to 1980…
Jason: What prompted you guys to buy a restaurant?
Bob: Well, (when we were students) we went to Menlo and Stanford and used to come up to Marin County on weekends. We had some friends up there. We decided someday we’d like to live there. So, when we started the group we ended up living in Marin.
Jason: So why buy a restaurant?
Bob: To make money.
Jason: And why that restaurant in particular?
Bob: It made a lot of money.
Jason: When did you first discover The Trident?
Bob: When it was called the Yacht Dock. We thought (the location) on the water and looking at San Francisco was a nice place to make a living so we bought that (restaurant) as one of our investments.
Jason: Was it already a psychedelic-looking place when you bought it?
Bob: No, we did all that. We were America’s ‘clean cut college kids’, don’t you know!
Jason: How different were you guys from that ‘clean-cut’ image?
Bob: What, you want me to spoil it for my fans? (Laughs) They (the music industry) had to sell us as an image so we were their ‘clean-cut college kids’. …But in reality our backgrounds were completely different from what they were selling us as. Two of us were from Hawaii and the other guy was from Southern California. Two of us went to Menlo because we couldn’t get into Stanford.
Jason: How many of the original Kingston Trio actually lived in Marin County?
Bob: Two of us lived in Marin. Nick Reynolds and I. My home was in Tiburon on top of the hill and the second one was in Reedlands. Nick lived in Sausalito.
Jason: Do you have any memories of places you used to like to go and hang out in Marin during the Sixties and Seventies?
Bob: Oh sure, Smitty’s in Sausalito which is still there. We used to go to the Buckeye a lot when it was a German restaurant. And we used to hang out at in 39 Main in Tiburon. It was a bar.
Jason: You have any unique, humorous, or funny memories of different clientele that would come into the Trident?
Bob: No, can’t do that. I’m writing a book and that’s included in that.
Jason: Is it true you owned the first house ever built in Sausalito?
Bob: Yes, that was the old Pink House. It’s up on Main Street. You could go straight up from where Sally Stanford’s used to be. You go up the hill and on the left hand side you’ll see a pink house. It was a copy of Franz Schubert’s house in Austria. It was built in 1840.
Jason: How has Marin changed since the days when you used to live here?
Bob: Less hippies.
Jason: There were a lot of them in Marin back in the day?
Bob: Yeah sure, of course. (Chuckle) What do you think the Trident was built for?
Jason: I’m told Janis Joplin had her own a table at The Trident. What’s that mean?
Bob: At any restaurant in the United States if you have your own a table it means you can call ahead and tell people you’re coming and you’ll have that same table guaranteed for you.
Jason: Do you remember where exactly Janis’ table was?
Bob: I have no idea. If you remember those years you weren’t there.
Jason: Isn’t that a Robin Williams line?
Jason: Did you know him at that time?
Jason: Any glimpse then that he would become an international star?
Bob: Everybody thought he should be a working comedian.
Jason: Did he screw around a lot on the job?
Bob: No, he was just funny.
Jason: Seen him since?
Bob: Still funny.
Jason: Do you remember Janis Joplin?
Jason: What was she like?
Bob: At the time I saw her she was rather stoned. Hell, we all were.
Jason: Is there any fun memory of Marin you can share despite your upcoming book?
Bob: I once had a ’65 Shelby AC Cobra that I drove from one end of Sausalito to the other in about 18 seconds. At the time it was the hottest street car in the United States. It went from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds.
Jason: What time of day was that?
Bob: About four in the morning.
Jason: Did you get caught?
Bob: No. I didn’t see another soul for the whole distance….
Jason: Sounds like you were having a pretty fun life.
Bob: I’ve always had a fun life. I’m even having fun these days and I’m hooked to an oxygen tube.