The Malibooz is inducted into the California Music Hall of Fame

Led by longtime Malibu musician John Zambetti, the band has entertained generations of fans and kept surf music alive

Led by longtime Malibu musician John Zambetti, the band has entertained generations of fans and kept surf music alive

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu’s John Zambetti and his childhood friend, Walter Lindsay Egan, and their band, The Malibooz, have entertained audiences nationwide for six decades, singing surf music, and composing and performing songs that are etched in many readers’ memories of their youth.  

On April 14, the Malibooz was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. Carefully vetted by the Hall of Fame Committee, both The Malibooz, the band, as well as Egan individually, were inducted at a joyous event that provided the band members with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on just how far two kids from the city — and the many iterations of The Malibooz — have traveled, literally and figuratively, as they performed gigs and shared many musical and life experiences with fans old and new over the years.

As fans turned to social media to congratulate the band members, one longtime, loyal admirer summed up the sentiments of many of the band’s devotees. “What a well deserved honor. I’ve been blessed to witness the ride — Congratulations!” Jon Mitchell posted.

At the ceremony, those introducing the awardees noted that when Zambetti entered Loyola High School in New York in the fall of 1962, he was already playing lead guitar in his surf band, The Statics, with his elementary school friends. He quickly decided to transition into a band with some of the upperclassmen at his high school. However, after playing for a year with them, he was unhappy with their musicianship and decided to start his own band, The Malibooz. 

So, in early 1964, he approached his best friend and classmate, Walter Egan, who he knew was playing folk guitar. He told Walter that if he bought an electric guitar, he could join John’s new band. John went with Walter to speak to his parents to assure them that, if they gave Walter the money for a Fender Stratocaster, The Malibooz would be making enough to pay it back in no time, a prognostication that proved to be very true.

Once Egan joined the band, it really soared and soon became a favorite in the New York City area. In late 1964, along with another bandmate, Chris Murray, John wrote the tune “Goin’ to Malibu.” In 1965, they recorded it along with Egan’s song, “That’s a Lie,” and later on that year, they were able to get gigs playing at the New York State World’s Fair where The Malibooz played a concert at the New York State Pavilion and then in a color TV broadcast at the RCA Pavilion. At the RCA pavilion TV show, host Colin Murphy approached Zambetti after they had played the first of five songs and asked him to explain the difference between surf music and the “English Sound.” John went into an extemporaneous explanation, showing the differences between the two genres on his guitar. 

That classic moment is captured on the band’s “Malibooz Rule!” album. For that album, Egan and Zambetti decided to fly the original three other members of The Malibooz out to California to re-record “Goin’ to Malibu.” 

“In 1996, Rhino released the box set ‘Cowabunga Surf.’ ‘Goin’ to Malibu’ was part of the collection and MTV picked it up that summer as the theme song for their MTV hit ‘Malibu Beach House,'” Zambetti recalled. “So, quite remarkably, a song written by a 14-year-old from the Bronx later became the theme song for the MTV ‘Malibu Beach House’ 30 years later! That demonstrates how long-lasting and lucky Malibooz has been and how its relevance transcends more than surf music — it has helped to define not only a genre but also a popular culture still treasured by many.”

In 1966, having graduated high school along with drummer Tom Scarp, the three bandmates entered Georgetown University. By that time they were mostly playing British invasion style peppered with some originals so they eventually changed their name from The Malibooz to Sageworth.

After college, Egan continued as guitarist and primary songwriter for Sageworth. Zambetti played for a year with a band called Wine-Dark-Sea. 

Then, he went to medical school in New York City, paying his expenses by doing session work and playing clubs at night. In 1976, when Egan signed to Columbia records, he invited Zambetti to come out and record with him. Egan enjoyed a successful solo career highlighted by his mega-hit, “Magnet & Steel,” his homage to Stevie Nicks, which was released in 1978. 

Due to the success of Egan’s solo career, in 1981, Columbia offered to release a Malibooz single. This was quickly followed by an offer from Rhino Records to release a Malibooz album. Hence, The Malibooz’s first album: “Malibooz Rule!”  

Scott Monahan joined the band at that time on keyboards and vocals. David Chamberlain soon joined, playing bass. Both Scott and David have been mainstays of the band ever since, contributing their ideas, and even some original tunes along the way. More recently. Michael Mason has joined on drums to complete the current lineup. 

Over decades during which society — and the music industry, and the band members, and their fans — have changed vastly, The Malibooz has stayed reassuringly the same, playing surf music and spreading joy to the band’s loyal fans, yet concurrently they have also evolved and generated music that is relevant and trend setting. 

The Malibooz have recorded seven albums and more than 30 of their songs have been featured in movies and television shows. In 2010, they released their “Queens’ English” album, which included guest performances by a dozen of the original British invasion icons, including Tony Hicks of The Hollies, Spencer Davis, Chad & Jeremy, and the Quarrymen. “Queens’ English” received the Album of the Year Award from the Malibu Music Awards this year. Their current album, “QE 2,” includes The Malibooz’ cover of The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out,” which is currently in rotation on the SiriusXM Beatles’ Channel.  

The Malibooz continue performing live, to the delight of their loyal fans, most recently on March 31, when they opened for Herman’s Hermits at The Canyon Club and delighted a standing-room-only crowd.  

The band has sold records in more than 64 countries. They have been Grammy semi-finalists eight times and they continue placing songs in movies and TV, including having two songs featured in the new movie, “21 Miles in Malibu,” a documentary by one of Malibu’s talented producers and writers, Michel Shane (“Catch Me if You Can,” “I, Robot”), that addresses the perils of Malibu’s main thoroughfare, the Pacific Coast Highway, and that admonishes civic leaders at all levels of government in California to stop the madness inherent in Malibu’s Pacific Coast Highway’s horrendous infrastructure challenges and pandemic of speeding.

2024 represents the 60th anniversary of The Malibooz and the band members were very honored to be inducted into the California Music Hall of Fame.

Egan was also inducted as a solo artist. And the band plays on!