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Spyridon Skordilis

Renowned Greek bouzouki player dies in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — Spyridon "Spiros" Skordilis was a master of the bouzouki, the mandolinlike instrument associated with the rebellion and sorrow of the Greek underclass.

He composed songs, sold thousands of records and gave performances that brought people to dance floors at Greek nightclubs in Athens, Toronto, Chicago, Detroit and Tarpon Springs.

For years, he taught bouzouki at Tarpon Springs Elementary School, setting several students on the path to become skilled musicians.

Mr. Skordilis was born in 1930 in Athens and died Saturday in Tarpon Springs. He was 83.

The family will welcome visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Dobies Funeral Home, 701 E Tarpon Ave. The funeral will be at noon Saturday at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 36 N Pinellas Ave.

Until just months before he died, Mr. Skordilis directed a chorus at the Hellenic Cultural Center. He also continued to perform with the bouzouki.

"He was so devoted to playing his music," said Tina Bucuvalas, a family friend. "Even after he had a stroke, he would take off his oxygen to go to restaurants to play music and socialize."

He grew up poor but was a skilled guitarist who transitioned to the bouzouki, rising to fame in Greece in the 1960s just as the instrument shed its image as music for the underworld and became popular.

Mr. Skordilis toured Greece and Australia alongside then-wife Daina Lena, and together they composed several hits. He signed with the Columbia record label.

One of his hits, Your Mini Dress, was an ode to miniskirts, a daring new trend in late 1960s Greece. Dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, who assumed power in Greece in 1967, banned miniskirts — and Mr. Skordilis' miniskirt song.

The couple performed in some of North America's most prestigious Greek nightclubs, landing in 1977 at Zorba's in Tarpon Springs.

After Lena became ill and died, Mr. Skordilis stayed in Tarpon and met Kay, who said she was attracted to his kind smile and his honesty. "He never carried on about himself or acted pretentious," she said.

They began dating in 1978, got married, and she joined him on tour. It was always an adventure, she said.

Once, he took a job in Daytona Beach only to find out the restaurant where he was supposed to play hadn't yet opened. So the couple lived under a bridge in a van they bought at an auction.

Mr. Skordilis' health declined in recent years, and he was in and out of a nursing home. Doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer and removed a lung around 2008. Soon after, he had a stroke.

But he rarely spoke of his health problems, saying he wanted people to enjoy themselves when he performed, not feel sorry for him.

"We had a fun life together," said Kay Skordilis, 77. "Traveling, meeting people. And he loved that bouzouki."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 850-323-0353.


Spyridon Skordilis

Born: July 20, 1930

Died: June 15, 2013

Survivors: Wife, Kay Skordilis; daughters, Tammy Levent and Effie Skordilis; son, Ilias Skordilis; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Renowned Greek bouzouki player dies in Tarpon Springs 06/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:31pm]
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