Originally formed as a trio in 1982 while still at Mar Vista High in Imperial Beach, the Trebels featured guitarist Xavier Anaya, bassist Oscar Barajas and John Chilson on drums. Like most high school rockers, they started covering bands like the Who and the Jam. The addition of Jay Wiseman-who happened by the garage where the band practiced-brought the group a dynamic front man and, more importantly, a sharper musical focus.
The band began playing in a style that today would be termed “roots R&B”-but back then was simply considered an excellent rock combo. For a short time, Chilson left the band and was replaced by Ralph “Chipper” Zamora. But by the time the Trebels started playing the party circuit-usually in I.B. at the legendary White House or at SDSU fraternity shindigs-Chilson was back on board. By the summer of 1983, the Trebels had become favorites at both school dances and teen clubs of the day, such as Headquarters in Pacific Beach,/b> and Club Zu in Solana Beach.
Chilson left the band for a second time in 1985, heading to San Francisco to join the Deadbeats, which also featured former San Diegan Mike Limm (ex-39 Steps). Chilson was temporarily replaced by David Anderson, (Gravedigger V, Manual Scan). Like any sordid love affair, Chilson came back again in '87 with Deadbeat guitarist Jim Davies, making the band a foursome.
A well-known tale from this time involves the “New Sounds” festival at SDSU's Montezuma Hall. Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr was backstage and was approached by organizers about jamming with one of the bands on the bill. Marr agreed, and the Trebels were chosen.
As the Trebels took the stage for their set, organizers approached the band to ask if Marr could sit in. Whether it was Anaya or Wiseman on side stage is unclear, but whoever it was didn't seem to know (or care) that the legendary Smiths guitarist wanted to jam. Probably thinking there was going to be a change to their tightly rehearsed set, one of the members just yelled a resounding “No!” And thus Marr never got to plug in. Self-kicking ensued.
The Trebels recorded prolifically, putting at least two albums worth of material to tape, but only managed to issue one single-1988's “That's You/That Girl” on Whaam Records. The group continued gigging regularly (Winston's and Rio's were favorites) with one highlight being an opening spot for Chuck Berry at the Bacchanal. By the end of the decade, however, the band wound down. Their final gig was March 17, 1989.
Minus Barajas (who would later play with local blues artist Buddy Blue), the rest of the members joined with Mike Stax (Crawdaddys, Tell Tale Hearts, the Loons), and would soon transform into one of San Diego's best-loved '90s groups, the Hoods.