Basile Kolliopoulos, a legendary music figure in Oklahoma City, passed away Monday after a short battle with liver cancer. He was 59.
Born in Athens, Greece in 1953, Kolliopoulos came to America in 1970. His first band in Oklahoma, The Fensics, formed in 1978 and by 1979, released a 7″ single “Full Time Job” / “Tornado Warning”. They opened for The Cramps at Boomer Theatre and reportedly played CBGBs with The Dead Boys at some point.
Kolliopoulos moved to New York City briefly in 1980 and joined The Senders. In 1982, he moved back to Oklahoma and The Fortune Tellers was formed from the remnants of the Fensics.
“The Fortune Tellers blast out a heady blend of ferocious r&b, psycho-whang guitarisma, and wild card Crowley, Beefheart and Coltrane influences (check out their staggerin’ rendition of “A Love Supreme” and shake hands with God). I’ve come away from many o’ their shows sweatin’ like a lady havin’ septuplets.” - Jon Mooneyham, Facade (July/August 1986)
The Fortune Tellers released three albums over their eight years as a band and their second album, Musick Without Tears, featured Alejandro Escovedo on backing vocals. Members of the band also backed up Bo Diddley when he came to town on three separate occasions.
“When the only way a band could get booked in this town was to play lame covers of everybody else’s songs, the Fortune Tellers stood their ground, played where they could and – most important – played what they wanted. It was that stance, as much as any other factor, that led to the development of the Oklahoma City music scene as it stands, walks and dances today. ” - Steve Hill, Oklahoma Gazette (December 7, 1988)
In 1990, Kolliopoulos and drummer Mike Newberry formed The Reverb Bros, which were active as recently as 2011.
“Basile’s a mysterious man who stirs Delta blues, Blue Cheer and blue bedroom lights into a bittersweet brew. Middle Eastern cadences collided with fundamental soul chords. An attractive woman in the audience did a compelling bump and grind to the music while her male escort stood motionless, arms akimbo.” – Doug Hill, Norman Transcript (August 26, 2005)
“The Reverb Brothers are not boring, overdone, or cliche. At some points, singer Basile Kolliopoulos spills out something that sounds similar to a jam session by Jim Morisson during a drug-induced midlife crisis. You can’t help but love it.” - Robert Cole, NONzine (July 21, 2006)
In 1992, Kolliopoulos recorded a solo album, El Greco! in Austin, Texas with original members of the The Fabulous Thunderbirds: bassist Keith Ferguson and drummer Mike Buck.
Kolliopoulos was featured on the cover of Oklahoma Today “State of Rock” issue (PDF) in 2009. Included in the issue is a Q&A with him and Jon Mooneyham.
In 2011, The Fortune Tellers played their last show on the main stage at Norman Music Festival. Their set list can be found here.
From Oklahoma Gazette, March 2, 1988:
Gazette: Are you going to be doing this until your dying day?
Basile: Well yeah, probably. I always thought, “Well we can always make the noise we make now.” But if it doesn’t happen, I don’t know how long we can go on as the Fortune Tellers. We probably will for a long time, but I can always do the real straight blues. You don’t have to be a certain age to do that. So I probably will be doing it because I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Y’know, I can’t see myself being an insurance salesman anytime soon.
There will be a gathering of Basile’s family, friends and fans at 7pm tonight (January 30) at VZDs in Oklahoma City.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Basile’s family and friends.
Basile Kolliopoulos Discography:
1979: The Fensics – Full Time Job 7″
1986: The Fortune Tellers – F.T.F.F. (Fortunes Told For Free)
1986: The Fortune Tellers – Musick Without Tears
1990: The Fortune Tellers – Lively Up!
1992: Basile Kolliopoulos – El Greco!
1995: The Reverb Bros. – Blowdry
2005: The Reverb Bros. – Adult Entertainment
2011: The Reverb Bros. – Shakes of Too Little
Basile Kolliopoulos was the god father of OKC rock and roll and the epitome of never giving up on the music he loved. You will be missed.
— Being Leon Manson (@SonicViolence) January 29, 2013
My heart is heavy with the loss of Basile Kolliopoulos. Friend and hero. True rock-n-roll badass with a heart of gold. bit.ly/HETL8C
— Kyle Golding (@KyleGolding) January 28, 2013
Young OKC rockers should study up on Basile Kolliopoulos tonight. Respect your predecessors. sonicbids.com/2/EPK/?epk_id=…
— andrewrice (@AMRice44) January 29, 2013
Saddened to hear of the passing of OKC music legend Basile Kolliopoulos. We had *kilos of fun* in the 80s, and… fb.me/1Fsv8w1Ck
— Troy Dillinger (@troydillinger) January 28, 2013
lucky that dad that was best friends with Basile Kolliopoulos-i’ll never forget seeing Reverb Brothers at 9 & being in awe of rock.still am.
— Mary Asal (@mybitterhoney) January 29, 2013
RIP, Basile Kolliopoulos: a founder of The Fortune Tellers and Reverb Brothers & a true giant in OKC music. twitter.com/okgazette/stat…
— Oklahoma Gazette (@okgazette) January 29, 2013