Hiotis vs Hendrix

By: | Post date: 2017-08-10 | Comments: 4 Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek, Music

This is not high Greek culture. This is not even low Greek culture. This is stoopid Greek culture. But I got a laugh out of it, and I’m translating the YouTube comments about it.

In the left corner: Jimi Hendrix. This audience, I assume, needs no introduction to him.

In the right corner, Manolis Chiotis. How do I describe Manolis Hiotis? Well, if Vamvakaris was the Bach of Bouzouki music, Tsitsanis the Beethoven, and Zambetas the Offenbach, then I guess Hiotis was the Paganini. He was a virtuoso, he pioneered the electric bouzouki in guitar tuning, and he was wildly popular in Greek film. But his songs, I dare say, are not the greats of the genre. A few have nostalgic appeal (Περασμένες μου αγάπες, Θεσσαλονίκη μου μεγάλη φτωχομάνα, Ηλιοβασιλέματα), but they’re way too European, and way too light. I love “My Thessalonica, Great Mother Of The Poor”, but on reflection, I think I love it most for that verse. The tune is on the frivolous side, and the intro is actually quite awkward.

The vid says that he was the man who dragged the bouzouki out of the mud, perfumed it, and made it fit for the salon. I don’t think that counts as praise, and I think you’ll find Tsitsanis did that first. Tsitsanis might have been bourgeois, and had no idea what getting stoned was, but at least he had a soul.

That’s not a universal opinion on Hiotis; in fact, it’s bound to be a controversial one. But it’s mine.

Anyway. Here’s a YouTube vid, made by Greek government TV no less, about the urban legend that Hendrix ran into a show by Hiotis in New York (supposedly in ’65, which would have been before anyone cared what Hendrix had to say; user Voodoochile79 offers it was supposed to be ’69), and stated that he may have been the best stringed-instrument player he’d ever heard. Mary Linda, Hiotis’ wife and musical partner, is interviewed to corroborate it. I think the vid hints that Hendrix even learned his technique from Hiotis; I dare not play it in full to find out.

“Hendrix says X is a better guitarist than he is” is an exorbitantly widespread urban legend (Phil Keaggy Greatest Guitarist?); this, I guess, is the Greek variant. The origin of the urban legend is the alleged exchange from 1969 “How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist?” “I don’t know, go ask Rory Gallagher.”

If there ever was a kernel of truth to this, which is extremely doubtful, it may be in what user SUNBLESSED ATHENS reports in comments there:

Ο Χεντριξ το ειπε οπως εκανε και αλλα παρ ομοια σχολια για πολλους ανα τα χρονια.Απλα δεν υπαρχει καταγεγραμμενο ντοκουμεντο για την δηλωση του οσον αφορα τον Χιωτη.Όσον αφορα την ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ…διαβαστε να σας την πω εγω, Λοιπον.. αδελφος του παππου μου που ζουσε εκει χρονια αναμμεσα σε πολλους καλεσμενους σε εκδηλωση ηταν εκει..στο Αμερικα..και το ακουσε ο ιδιος..απο τον πιτσιρικα νεαρο κιθαριστα ο οποιος σε μπλα μπλα..με δημοσιογραφους και μουσικοφιλους ειπε κατι σαν.. ”That Greek guy from the other night..(ειχε παιξει ο Χιωτης 2 μερες πριν)..was really good..i think he is the prob the best.!!Ισως μεταξυ σοβαρου και αστειου

Hendrix did say it, and he made similar comments about a lot of people over the years. There’s just no documentary evidence of him saying so about Hiotis. As for the truth: read on. So, my grandfather’s brother, who lived over there in “The Amerika” for years, was invited to a reception, and he heard it himself from the kid guitarist, who in the middle of some yadda yadda with journalists and music fans said something like, “That Greek guy from the other night” (Hiotis had played two days before) “was really good… I think he is probably the best.” Possibly as a half-way joke.


At any rate, there’s such concentrated win in the comments, that I think I should be relaying some of it in English.

Not the stuff by people who actually believed the video. That’s depressing. Or people who actually say that Hendrix wasn’t all that, because he wasn’t a virtuoso shredder like Hiotis or Malmsteen. That’s even more depressing. And expressing incredulity about the video is shooting fish in a barrel. But after the week I’ve had on Quora, I’ll take it. Even if most of the commenters are Hiotis fans.

Chronological order. The mockery only starts a year after the initial post.

  • alucardae86: This show is in the same style as the 8 pm news: misinformation at its peak. The four-string bouzouki was not invented by Hiotis, it existed since 1912. Hendrix was never known for his speed or his crisp tone, but for his technique and his pioneering sound (corresponding to our Vamvakaris). As for his statement, that’s an urban legend that has circulated about various artists of the time. PS: Hiotis belongs to the pantheon of bouzouki players.
  • markos aggelos: Hi guys this is my comment. Hiotis is a master musician and I don’t want to take anything away from him a master musician. But Hendrix at that time was in the military from what I know. So the hypotheticals of Greek TV are as always a bunch of crap. Don’t watch TV guys they’ve stuffed us full of bullshit what a great scene they’re painting, two giants sitting back having a little glass of wine and playing Voodoo Chile haha. What next he taught him how to use a wah wah pedal too.
  • Nick Parastratidis: “He took the instrument out of the mud of the suburbs and placed it in the salons of the aristocracy.” Repulsive. He praises Hiotis, but insults his origins and the origins of all rebetiko. Historical inaccuracy coupled with vile snobbery against generations of people who grew up in the “mud of the suburbs.” Shitty little journalists.
  • John Maronidis: You do know it is possible to listen to more than 1 kind of music right?
  • Vlad Count: Mine used to play the accordion with Metallica for many years
  • Greek Bouzouki: I am sad to say that the things that impress people are the things that shouldn’t. Hiotis is not great because he impressed Hendrix, or because he played the guitar upside down, or because he played fast.
  • Dimitris Skazas: The observation made by many that this is an urban legend is accurate, and if I may say so, obvious. It regularly involves many virtuoso soloists, usually with little thought. Moreover, I do not admit the need of such comparisons between artists belonging to distinct cultures. It is true that once, in a much later interview, Mrs Linda reprised the legend, pretty much trapped into doing so by a journalist who mentioned it to her as a given, but also with some naiveté that I do not begrudge her. This confusion (not comparison) between Hiotis and Hendrix, if I may say so, is somewhat pathetic.
  • ΣΤΑΥΡΙΔΗΣ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΣ: A wonderful documentary. Only Greek State TV does such quality work BRAVO. [Poe’s law applies here]
  • mpelefroni: Hiotis at the time was known by the nickname “Rory
  • Παναγιώτης Μήτσου: Neither Gallagher nor Hiotis. (Haha, you found a video with Gallagher, you say.) [In response to someone who claims to have seen a video of Hendrix saying it about Gallagher.]
    There is a version [of the urban legend] circulating with Hiotis (Linda must have circulated it), a version which fits our national collective fantasising perfectly. And of course plenty of Greeks rush to reproduce it with wondrous ease and satisfaction. They even claim that the interview had been recorded and that they have seen it. And they’re proud of it, as if, had Hendrix actually said that Hiotis was a better guitarist than him in some parallel universe, that would be reason enough for them to feel proud themselves. Hullo barefoot family.
    • kostasaliver: And even if that is true, buddy, why ruin it? Myths are there to be preserved.


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