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.
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.