Saturday, October 19th, 2019
Nameday of Cleopatra, Kleopatra, Patra, Patroula, Cleo, Felix

The Philly Greek-Stake Blog

The Trio

The Trio

Trio Bel Canto with Bill Cosby, 1974. Photo: Trio Bel Canto

If you’re 40 years and older, you will remember the phenomenon known as the Trio Bel Canto. The “Trio” as we referred to them, was a Greek music trio that started in 1958 in Greece and moved to the United States. The band had its heyday during the 1960s through the 1980s. Today, we get the latest hit songs instantly off of iTunes and YouTube, but back then we heard the latest hits from Greece at a Trio performance. I guess they were the original iTrio!

Every Greek family had a least one Trio album – that’s right youngsters, an “album” – a 33 1/3 piece of pressed vinyl, played on both sides, with scratches and pops, the way music was to supposed to be heard. I not only had many of the albums of the Trio, but I had 8-tracks too (with the folded up piece of paper stuck between the 8-track and the player so the sound wouldn’t “wobble” – I also had the Eagles’ Hotel California and Peter Frampton Live on 8-track! What a combination) and hundreds of cassettes, that would get eaten by the cassette player. I’m sure if you look through Papou’s or your Dad’s music collection you will find at least one Trio recording.

During this time, in Greece, singers were popular … Dionysiou, Kazantzidis, Sakelleriou, and others, but here it was the Trio’s trademark 3-part harmonies and their musicianship that made them popular. When they performed they would come out for two sets. The first 45 minutes set (remember, there were union rules for time on stage and off back then) and perform their “show”. This consisted of covering the latest Greek songs, performed in the Trio style. Their second set was the standard Greek dance music. What they did live some bands could not do in a studio.

The original Trio members in 1958 were Evangelos (Angelo) Metaxas, Yiannis (John) Papamakariou, and Bobby Tsobanakis. Bobby left and was replaced by Mihalis (Michael) Matheos on bouzouki. This Trio lasted until 1971 when Michael left and Takis Elenis joined as its lead bouzouki player. In 1981 Taki left and George Vlismas replaced him. In 1999, the Trio Bel Canto – the Next Generation featured Angelo with his son, Kyriakos Metaxas, and Nick Mandoukos.

The Trio performed in Greece, Lebanon, Panama, Jerusalem, Las Vegas, New York City, Hawaii, Venezuela, and many places around the world, and performed on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and numerous times with Nikos Gounaris. One of my favorite photographs is of the Trio with comedian Bill Cosby who is holding a bouzouki and smoking a cigar – now that’s a photo! Although they played the world, they also played here in the Philly area, at the Ivy Stone Inn in Pennsauken, the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia, the Falcon House in Havertown, and Widener College. We would never miss a Trio performance.

Angelo’s soprano lead vocal gave the blend of the Trio voices a unique flavor. John was the solid rhythm and played bass runs and chords on the guitar. Of course, there was Taki… Mr. Monster Bouzouki player. Before Taki, there was Michael, who was an accomplished bouzouksis, but has not been given the credit he deserves, but Taki … whoa! Taki, who is still performing live in New York, is on my top 5 bouzouki players of all time which includes Hiotis, Nikolopoulos, Karantinis, and Tatasopoulos. His speed and clarity were unbelievable and he played it effortless. Because of Taki, we all practiced harder!

Every Greek-American band that started during this period was heavily influenced by the Trio and wanted to emulate them with their 3-part harmonies and the Taki-ess bouzouki playing. Old and young alike enjoyed the Trio and we all had our favorite song performed by the Trio – “Giorgo Mou, Giorgo Mou” with Angelo’s amanamas, or, “Den Katalaveno Tipota” with Taki’s bouzouki solo. How many of us danced to the kalamatiano series including “Mesa Sto Nero Tis Limnis” and “Skali Kale Mou Skali” – I see you smiling now and singing “Opou Giorgo Kai Malama”. We all had a favorite.

The old Trio is gone now, but never forgotten. We danced to them, sang with them, and enjoyed watching them perform and those Greek-American musicians who now play at your weddings, dances, festivals, and baptisms… well, we still have a little “Trio” in all of us. Thank you Angelo, John, Taki, and all the members of the Trio Bel Canto. You inspired a generation.

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10 Comments

  1. The Mini Philly Greek Stake

    I remember the numerous car rides listening to these guys, thanks to my dad

  2. Maria

    OH how the Trio Bel Canto take me back!!! Makes me wish I was a kid again!

  3. George Calys

    Next time I am at my parent’s (this May at Easter) I have GOT to rummage through their old records because they definitely had Trio bel Canto albums! I had almost forgotten about this GREEK MEGA BAND!!! Thanks Harry for reminding us!

  4. Richard Georgeou

    I used to go to Greek dances in the Boston area in the 60s and got to see the Trio perform. I still own a cassette of their songs. Their harmony is timeless.
    And the bouzouki is my favorite instrument. I bought their albums and turned
    my parents on to their music.

    Hopa,
    Richard

  5. Thomas Prassinas

    I still have many of there albums
    they played next to my fathers band …. The New Sounds many times
    the New Sounds played the dance music and the Trio did an awesome show .. great times

  6. Apostolos Combitsis

    I designed and published the Trio Bel Canto website, http://www.triobelcanto.com, at the request of lead singer and founder Evangelos Metaxas and his son, Kyriako a number of years ago. (Visit the site… you’ll find photos and some historical notes BY DECADE! The Trio is the reason I learned to dance Greek and to learn to play the bouzouki. They have certainly influenced Greek music in this country. This was before Greek artists had the “in” to come to this country and perform. Evangelos lives in North New Jersey, as does Taki (right down the street from my parents!). John decided to move to Greece back in the late 90’s.

  7. Chuck Koustas

    Harry ! again you hit the sweet spot – being a musician – they made Greek Music what it is in this country – we all emulated them and thank them for their talent ,showmanship, and their friendship!! Panda
    AXIOS x3!!

  8. Luciano Lucas

    great tribute article. nicely put together and all true. i hail from the same island (Lipsi) Dodecanisa as Taki. I met him the first time in Tasmania in 1975 and a second time in brisbane in 1980. His awsome bouzouki skills were matched only by his humility, generosity and good humour. An unforgettable band they entertained countless expatriate Greeks around the globe and whenever their music is heard it serves only to evoke great memories of a much better era and time.

  9. Anne

    My.parents had around 10 albums of the trio.

  10. Evangelos Poneres

    Ο δρόμος είναι ανοικτός, και είναι ωραίος ο καιρος, αν σου ‘χω γίνει βαρετος, πάρε της βαλιτσες σου και ΜΠΡΟΣ!!!!!! Nice article Harry. Taki is the man!

    -Vango

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