John K. Gianaros
1994 Florida Folk Heritage Award
In 1904, John K. Gianaros was born on a boat en route to Pireaus, Greece. He was first introduced to public performances by street criers in his native land, and as a child he worked as a crier for a political campaign. When he came to the United States in 1922, Gianaros “fell in love with the accordion,” and in 1927 he began studying music. Because he was literate, Gianaros took particular pride in being a union musician. For almost forty years, Gianaros performed with various bands in California, Miami, New York, and other cities across the country. They often played at private parties, hotels, and café amans or Greek clubs. From the l930s to 1950s, he regularly recorded with Liberty, Kalos Diskos, Metropolitan, and Mastertone labels.
Gianaros possessed a large collection of photographs, handbills, and 78 rpm records which documented Greek music in the United States. Interviews with Gianaros provided insights to the world of a working ethnic musician in New York City. After his retirement, Gianaros continued to write and perform in Florida. He composed “Big Sponge Boy,” a song about sponge divers in Tarpon Springs, where he made his home. Gianaros was a favorite performer at various celebrations in Tarpon Springs and at other Greek American gatherings in Florida. He continued to perform both traditional Greek music and his own original compositions until his death in 1998.