Inspiration comes in many forms; a painting, a song, a speech, or even just a sunrise. Inspiration is all around us, but how many people can say that something truly inspired them and that inspiration has lasted almost a lifetime?
My inspiration came from a musician that I saw performing when I was about six or seven years old. No, not a famous musician the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, or even Segovia, but just a local guy, someone you could sit down and have a beer with, and talk music; a family man that performed at the weddings, baptisms, and dances of an entire generation.
His name is George Giordas and was the leader of the Greek-American band, George Giordas and his Orchestra, which performed in the Philadelphia-Metro area during the 1960s through the 1990s. George is an engineer by trade but began playing Greek music with his cousins and some other fellow musicians, after his stint in the United States Army. He played the clarinet and also sang, but in his early forties learned the bouzouki.
That’s where I come in.
My parents use to take us kids to all of the church and AHEPA dances in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area, and back in the 1960s, George and his troubadours were the number one band. Dressed in their tuxedos, they performed the newest songs from Greece along with the classics, and even American music. Of course, we kids did the natural things that kids do at any affair; run around and around, screaming and yelling, cutting in between the people in the kalamatiano line, and sliding on the floor.
But then I heard it.
It was the sound of the bouzouki. It cut through the air like a knife through hot butter, and I liked it. Even at that age, there was something about that sound that made my soul tingle. I can remember walking up to the front of the stage and staring up at the band, but focusing in on George and the bouzouki. I watched in amazement how he played the bouzouki, and my mouth dropped. I was hooked. I remember saying to myself that I could do that and that I wanted to do that.
In other words, I was inspired.
Unfortunately, at eight years old, my mother was in control of my musical ambitions, and she chose the accordion, not the bouzouki. But the performance that night, and other nights, of George and the bouzouki, was tucked away in my mind and afterward, at age fifteen, figuring out that you can’t get many girls, if any, playing the accordion, I formed my first Greek-American band called Orpheus in 1973. I learned the bouzouki shortly after that, and the band lasted for nine years. We then formed Atlantis of Philadelphia in 1985, and I have been performing ever since.
Through it all, I’ve recorded LPs, CDs, cassettes, music videos, various other recordings, movie background music, and numerous downloads on iTunes, and performed from Pennsylvania to Florida to California to Ontario, and in between. For those of you that know me, today, the bouzouki and Greek music is as much a part of me as my right arm. All because of that night watching George play that bouzouki and the inspiration that hit me like a ton of bricks.
Over the years, George and I have become friends, even performing at this daughter’s wedding many years ago. A few years back, we finally convinced him to come up and sing a few songs with Atlantis. For me, it was like performing with Giorgo Dalaras. He is my mentor, the guy that inspired me, and it is not just me. Many other local musicians were inspired by the man, and Greek bands were formed because of him. I tease George that I “blame” him for getting me into the “business.” He just laughs.
It is because of George and his band of merry music makers that I have a lifetime of pleasure playing the bouzouki and Greek music and performing for thousands and thousands of people. The greatest joy I get is watching people dance by and singing along to the song, and knowing that for a few hours, I helped them leave their troubles behind and just have a great time. That is what inspiration is, and that is what George gave to me, and I hope, someday, I give to another young musician who will continue inspiring other generations.
Yia’sou, George, and thank you for inspiring an entire generation!
Watch the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia/Cosmos Philly Video Interview of George Giordas
This article is sponsored by Atlantis of Philadelphia. From contemporary to classic, their talents have captivated generations of Greek music lovers. Whether it's a wedding, dance or festival, your special affair deserve the best, Atlantis of Philadelphia. For more info please visit atlantisofpa.com or call 856-418-0404.