Since its initial discovery nearly a decade ago, non-volcanic tremor has provided information about a region of the Earth that was previously thought incapable of generating seismic radiation. A thorough explanation of the geologic process responsible for tremor generation has, however, yet to be determined. Owing to their location at the plate interface, temporal correlation with geodetically measured slow-slip events and dominant shear wave energy, tremor observations in southwest Japan have been interpreted as a superposition of many low-frequency earthquakes that represent slip on a fault surface. Fluids may also be fundamental to the failure process in subduction zone environments, as teleseismic and tidal modulation of tremor in Cascadia and Japan and high Poisson ratios in both source regions are indicative of pressurized pore fluids. Here we identify a robust correlation between extremely small, tidally induced shear stress parallel to the San Andreas fault and non-volcanic tremor activity near Parkfield, California. We suggest that this tremor represents shear failure on a critically stressed fault in the presence of near-lithostatic pore pressure. There are a number of similarities between tremor in subduction zone environments, such as Cascadia and Japan, and tremor on the deep San Andreas transform, suggesting that the results presented here may also be applicable in other tectonic settings.