Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: George Katsaros
George KatsarosSongs of America
George Katsaros (1888 - 1997) - 1990 Florida Folk Heritage Award
George Katsaros was one of the most widely respected Greek musical artists. Born in 1888 on the Greek island of Amorgos, Katsaros learned to sing and play guitar long before 1913, when arrived in New York with his guitar in one hand and a suitcase in the other. Within hours of his arrival, he was accompanying a Salvation Army street band and was invited to stay on. For more than 80 subsequent years, his strong voice and unique style were heard in Greek restaurants, as well as ballrooms, hotels, clubs, concert halls, and ships throughout the world.
By 1918, Katsaros had become so popular that RCA Victor Records signed him to a recording contract, and he became the first Greek singer/composer to record on a 78-rpm disc. Contracts with Columbia and Decca followed, and soon many of his compositions became favorites in Greece and diaspora Greek communities. His popularity increased because people related to his songs about immigrant life in unfamiliar surroundings and difficult times, the comfort of family and friends, and the joy of hopes fulfilled.
To recognize Katsaros’ achievements, the Greek government asked him to undertake a concert tour in 1988 and presented him with a medal. Katsaros was a long-time resident of Tarpon Springs, where he continued to play at festivals and community events until the end of his life.