The Fortune Tellers
OK - I'll just start by saying that to me the Fortune Tellers were the greatest rock and roll band ever. Not only are they the quintessential rock and roll band, but they live where I live so I got to see them play at least a couple hundred times. So I might be a bit biased, but if you missed it, I hope you will get to at least hear their records, which hopefully might become more available someday (see below to download). No one played rock and roll music like the Fortune Tellers.
I discovered them in probably 1984, or maybe 1985. I was managing the night shift at the Lovelight Restaurant (in Norman, Oklahoma), working late one night, and my friend Thomas Anderson came in to see me. He wasn't just popping by to hang out, and what he had to tell me was not just a casual suggestion. He knew that I needed to see this band and he convinced me to go see them that night at Kelly's on Main Street. (Check out Anderson's interview with the band below). I didn't really want to go, wasn't in the best mood, and very skeptical that any rock and roll show was going to impress me right then. But Tom had earlier recommended Iggy Pop's Zombie Birdhouse to me and he wasn't wrong on that one. He was persistent, and suggested I just go and have a burger and then maybe stick my head in the door to see if I wanted to go on in. Kellys had a bar/restaurant on one side, and a big music room on the other side.
Well I went and had my meal and of course ended up going on in. I was immediately captivated by the magic voodoo rock and roll music. I went on up front and couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Full-grown men playing actual rock and roll music - totally the coolest music I had ever heard. In all my years of listening to records and radio and going to shows, I somehow had never really come across such authentic totally essential rock and roll music - the real deal. But my lifetime of immersion in music had prepared me for this. The time had come and I was ready. This was obviously the holy grail of rock and roll. The guitars are sizzling and growling, the bass and drums are massive. Every song is a dance song and people are dancing. (What a concept!) And they are called the Fortune Tellers - could there be a cooler name for a rock and roll band? I don't remember the details of that night, but I totally drank it in and could not wait for more. From then on I went to all of their shows, unless they were out of town (not being a traveller myself, plus they played plenty in Norman and OKC).
They had been together a few years before I first saw them. And prior to that they were called the Fensics. Some of them had lived in NYC for a while and Basile played with the Senders. Around that time they had a lead singer named Joe Thompson, who I think OD'ed on heroin. I remembered him as the super-smart class clown from 6th grade. I don't know a real lot about the early years and really was not that much of an insider. But from around the time I first saw them, they ruled the live music scene in the OKC area for probably 6 or 7 years. Their shows were always packed.
The guitar players are brothers from Greece, Basile and Miho Kolliopoulos. Basile plays rhythm guitar and sings. His younger brother Miho is one of the most monstrous lead guitar players ever (utilizing some serious wah along with slide and lots of volume). Both of these guys listened to all the coolest rock and roll and blues records growing up and learned this stuff from a young age. They got out of Greece when things were heating up there. Basile studied art at OCU (in OKC) and Miho studied architecture in Paris before moving here. Mike Newberry is one of the most powerful drummers I have ever seen. And like Charlie Watts, he plays the beat rock steady - no solos, no frills. He also played with the Ban-lons, the Deviants, and the Forbidden Pigs, and later became Watermelon Slim's drummer. Victor Goetz is exactly the bass player that you would expect to fill out the band, very solid and packing some funk, like a bass player should. This is one of those bands where all the members are important and they wouldn't be the same with any of them missing. So luckily they stayed together for over a decade and put out 3 awesome records.
Back then bands would often play two-night stands - Friday and Saturday night, just leaving their equipment set up in between. For some reason we don't see that anymore. In their peak years, the Fortune Tellers played a two-night weekend at Liberty D's in Norman every month and a two-night weekend at VZD's in OKC every month. At that time they also went to Austin and maybe Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, etc. They played lots of other clubs around here, including at The Bowery, The U Club, Rome 90, Samurai Saki House, Kelly's, The Blue Note (which Victor, Manson, and Billy owned for awhile). VZD's was kind of home base, and they played there every New Years Eve. During this time, the brothers each had their own bands on the side. In these bands, which both had continuous lineup changes, they could explore some other directions and experiment a bit more. Basile's band is the Reverb Brothers, which he continued to perform with until he left us (JAN 28, 2013). They might tend to be a little rougher and more blues-oriented. Miho's band was always instrumental only ("because the guitar has a voice"), and was always a 3-piece - bass and drums supporting his guitar. I used to describe the sound as psychedelic rock and roll jazz guitar. His band had various names through the years - The Rhythm Associates, The Associates, MVM, The Ortegas, Jason and the Argonauts. These bands would play at least once a month. At times the lineup of Basile's band would be him along with Newberry and Victor, and at times the lineup of Miho's band would be him along with Newberry and Victor. So these guys all played a lot. For me and a lot of us, we were in rock and roll heaven. At the time this was just normal reality. I knew it was special then, but now that its in the past, I realize how incredibly lucky we all were.
They put out three records from 1986 to 1990. The first was called Fortunes Told For Free. This was on the now-defunct French label, New Rose, and was issued only on LP. The second was called Musick Without Tears and was also on New Rose and only on LP. Both of these were recorded in Austin, Texas. The third record was called Lively Up! and the band recorded and produced it in OKC. Also on New Rose, this time on cassette, LP and CD. I'll list out the discographical details down below. All the records are rare and long out of print, but the maniacal fan can find them online (or hiding in stores) here and there from time to time for various prices. (MP3's of the songs Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock and Roll and Lively Up can be found online and even purchased from Amazon for 89 cents each - these songs were on New Rose samplers).
So the music has been preserved. But its really about the live show, eh? Man oh man, what shows these were! I probably saw them play 200-300 times. And I probably saw 50-100 different guitars. They always had several onstage and they were constantly trading them in for new ones. I remember at one point they had matching Sharvels. They had tons of songs. They played all their own stuff from their records and a handfull of choice covers.
Very rarely they might have someone sit in for a song or two. And they backed up Bo Diddley a couple of times when he came through. Bo Diddley (like Chuck Berry) travels alone and picks up a band wherever he goes. He's been here a lot and I got to see him a lot. I missed the first time the Fortune Tellers played with him (it was before I knew about them). That was a legendary show, with the whole band backing him up. (On the next couple of visits Miho did not play. And in later years, other bands played with him).
The clubs the Fortune Tellers played in were not huge, but big enough. And there was always a dance floor. They usually played three 45-minute sets from 10:30 until 1:30. They would open with More Miho and usually close with I Wanna Know. At some point near the end of that one, they might put their guitars (including the bass) behind their heads for a few bars. These guys aren't into gimmicks, so this was all the more special to see. At times, you might have to stand in line to get in or to re-enter. But you could always get through the line. And back in the day, they even had their own manager, who set up shows and ran the door (and there wasn't any sneaking by him). This was the famous Jon Manson, who later started his own band Billy Joe Winghead. He was just the character you would expect as the manager for this serious rock and roll band. At the time he was also a promoter who brought tons of cool shows here. And they even had their own soundman. (These guys were serious! This was the real deal!) Marty Dillon ran the sound at almost every show. He does sound systems for lots of clubs around here. He is also currently the drummer for the Reverb Brothers and filled that spot for the Fortune Tellers during the later years when Newberry had left. (Duane Lamont Williams of Dub Factor covered the drums on a couple of later shows as well). And then there were the "Fortune Cookies", the wives and girlfriends of the band and their female friends. Although the dance floor would soon enough be packed, it might take people a while to have some drinks, get loose and get up there. Which sometimes meant the girls had the dancefloor to themselves for the first set. And of course these were smoking hot women dressed to kill.
Have I painted the picture? I mean you just can't imagine how cool this was! These guys blew the roof off every time they played. This band was tight! The sound was sizzling hot. It was so amazing.
OK, so this went on for years. I'm not sure exactly what years or how many, but eventually they played less and less and finally broke up. And got back together and then broke up for good. Miho pretty much declared himself retired from rock and roll. Basile carried on with the Reverb Brothers, although even that faded away for awhile. I'm not sure what Victor has been doing musically. Newberry later became Watermelon Slim's drummer (until the end of 2008). Basile and Miho explored some experimental music together and performed a few times around 2004-2006 as The Brothers Kolliopoulos. They did at least one recording of this music. There were some rare times when Miho sat in with the Reverb Brothers. And then Miho moved to Athens, Greece. He still works for an architecture firm in OKC (thanks to the Internet), so he does come back here now and then. Sometime in mid-2008, there was a benefit for The Referral Center in OKC, which I think Newberry organized. It was headlined by Watermelon Slim, and was to include the Reverb Brothers, Otis Watkins and a couple other bands. Well, I think it was Basile's girlfriend Heather (later wife) who convinced him to check with the guys and see if they might want to do a Fortune Tellers reunion. Miho was in town, and he and Victor agreed to do it. There was some discussion about whether Newberry or Marty should play. Newberry was going to play with Watermelon Slim and with Otis Watkins, so they went with Marty (who was kind of a "fifth member" for many years). As it turned out, Otis didn't make it, but Newberry also wound up filling in for the drummer in one of the other bands (so it could have turned out that he played in four bands that day). Newberry gave the guys an introduction and they played an awesome set. This was a $35 event in a larger venue, and few people knew that the Fortune Tellers would be playing, so it wasn't quite like the old shows, but the band played great and I think they enjoyed it and thought maybe they wouldn't mind doing it again.
And then in October of 2008, they announced that they would be playing at VZD's for New Years Eve. This time Marty would play a set and Newberry would play a set. Wowee. New Years Eve! And we get over 2 months notice. A lot of people missed it but a lot of us didn't. Of course it was pretty packed for New Years and the show was totally awesome. There was an opening band that I had not seen before, Romantic Disaster, and they weren't bad. Then the Fortune Tellers got to play for most of 2 hours. In two sets they played tons of songs, and they sounded just like they were picking up where they left off, not a hint of rustiness. I'm not much of a dancer myself, but I stayed on the floor for the whole show. I am writing this 3 weeks later, not quite over it. I dug up all 3 records and have been listening to them over and over. I have been too lazy to do this before, but finally I have written this up and put up a webpage about my favorite rock and roll band ever.
Now that all 3 records have been in heavy rotation for awhile after not hearing them for years, I can't get them out of my head. There are some really cool songs on these records. I Wanna Know (from the 1st record) and Desolate (from the 3rd) are two of the coolest most classic rock and roll songs ever. And though I'm not sure too many people realized it, a lot of their songs are a bit political. Three in a row on the first record: Broke in the USA (self-explanatory), Think Twice ("think you're livin' in the land of the free, you better...think twice"), No Fuss ("no need to worry no need to fuss, we got a president takin care of us"), and D.M.F is about police in Chile. I consider them to be the ultimate rock and roll band, but I think they liked to refer to themselves as an R&B band. And they had some songs that sound like James Brown, such as Blue Condition (1st song on 1st record). To me the most important quality in rock and roll is that it is danceable. I'm telling you the dance floor was packed at every show. Meanwhile there were (and are) tons of shows here with people packed in like sardines standing and staring at "alternative" bands. Now I'm not so sure it was ever the stated purpose of the band to play dance music, but that's what they did. At the same time some of their songs are critical of the party scene: Home Tonight ("think I should have stayed...home tonight!"), Livin' Hell, and No More. They got a bit irked at people referring to them as retro (since they were cutting edge, alive and creative) or rockabilly (since they didn't play rockabilly). They always had new songs and any song might get rearranged. And although their songs were well-defined and polished, they had room to improvise in them. So the shows were always different. Of course the Fortune Tellers were not a cover band, but they did play a handful of really classy covers. Some I can remember: 3 by Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock and Roll (Bo Diddley beat on rhythm guitar and drums), Who Do You Love (straight drum beat, with Bo Diddley rhythm on guitar), and I Can Tell, which has a very interesting tricky rhythm. They were big fans of Dr. Feelgood and they covered Roxette, Walking the Dog, and rarely Down By the Jetty. They also liked the Pirates, and covered Honey Hush and Shakin' All Over. And of course Link Wray - they always played Rumble, with Basile sitting out to let Miho show off ("and now we gonna let the boys make some noise"). At Christmas, they might play Chuck Berry's Rockin' Rudolph. And the title track from their 3rd record is Bob Marley's Lively Up (in a Fortune Tellers styley). 32-20 on the first record is a Robert Johnson song. And they actually used to sometimes play an arrangement of John Coltrane's Love Supreme. So the songs they covered show a lot of their favorites. They also liked the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, the Cramps, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, etc.,etc. They were not a punk rock band, but I Can't Control Myself (on the 1st record) could sound like the Ramones. Basile and Miho have always listened to a very wide range of music, including Greek and other world music, experimental jazz, and electronic music. All these guys have totally soaked up the coolest blues and rock and roll music. Basile turned me onto RL Burnside's acoustic stuff before Fat Possum existed. Basile will sometimes get off into some genre of metal or punk rock. So all this stuff is reflected in the music, even though they stayed within the parameters of basic, simple rock and roll. I once told Miho that I had figured out how to play Desolate on guitar and that it was actually pretty easy. He replied "All of our songs are easy".
Fortune Teller's Shows in the Current Millenium:
DEC 31, 2008 - VZD's New Year'S Eve Show
(drums - Marty 1st set, Newberry 2nd set)
Opening band - Romantic Disaster.
AUG 8, 2009 SAT - Okie Twistoff at the 66 Bowl
- see www.okietwistoff.com.
This was an outdoor show, should have been a bigger crowd, but it was cool. Marty played drums in this and all future shows.
AUG 22, 2009 SAT - VZD's - as part of the Bowery Reunion Show.
Tickets were sold in advance, and the show was sold out a week or so ahead of time. Awesome show, dance floor packed from start to finish.
DEC 31, 2009 - VZD's New Years Eve Show
Opening band - Romantic Disaster.
JUL 9, 2010 FRI - VZD's
DEC 31, 2010 FRI - VZD's New Years Eve Show
Opening Band - Feel Spectres.
Very strong show, dance floor packed through both of the Fortune Tellers' sets. Miho just got a new Stratocaster and seemed to be taking his solos a bit farther.
APR 30, 2011 SAT - Norman Music Festival 4
3:30pm Main Stage
3. No Fuss
4. Lively Up
7. Home Tonight
9. Can't Control Myself
10. Blue Condition
11. Good Time
12. Honey Hush
13. I Wanna Know
Fortunes Told For Free - (1986) New Rose LP - Rose 82
Download CD image (.bin file): FortuneTellers-FTFF-1986-JJ2014.bin
Recorded at Lone Star Studio, Austin Texas
Produced by Dino Lee, Engineer Stuart Sullivan
Blue Condition - 3:09 Basile
I Wanna Know - 2:54 Basile/Miho
32-20 - 3:09 Trad. Arranged by Miho (recorded by Robert Johnson)
Gi-Me - 3:15 Basile/Miho
Broke in the USA - 3:33 Basile/Miho
Think Twice - 2:32 Basile
No Fuss - 3:30 Basile
Dreamin'- 4:49 Basile/Miho
Please Louise - 2:55 Basile
Can't Control Myself - 2:05 Basile
And a note from the back cover:
The Fortune Tellers would like to say thanks to: Philippe Marcade, Steve Shevlin, Billy Pigeon, Don Ledy, Keith Ferguson, Kim Wilson, Jimmy Vaughn, Fran Cristina, James Arnold, Dino Lee, Antone's, Alejandro and Xavier Escovedo, Johnny Reno, Kevin Hinks, Jennifur and Gary Dickson, Bill Bateman, Dave Alvin, Rosco the Man, Shelby Hurt, Billy Shipley (Roadie No. 1), The Fortune Cookies, And our Friends in OKC, last but not least, the man who put the Rock in Rock and Roll, Mr. Bo Diddley!!!
Musick Without Tears (1987) New Rose LP - Rose 114
Download CD Image (.bin file): FortuneTellers-MusickWithoutTears-1987-JJ2014.bin
Recorded at Arlyn Studios, Austin Texas November 28/29, 1986
Produced by Mike Stewart, Engineer Stuart Sullivan
Good Time? - 4:00 Basile/Miho/Victor
Lowdown - 3:54 Basile/Miho
Dance - 3:08 Basile/Miho
More Miho - 3:52 Miho
No More - 4:24 Basile
D.M.F - 4:12 Basile/Miho/Victor/Mike
Broken Heart - 4:13 Basile/Miho/Victor/Mike
Home Tonight - 4:51 Basile/Miho/Victor/Mike
Play New Rose For Me (1986) New Rose Sampler Double LP - Rose 100
Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock and Roll - 3:32 (Ellas McDaniel)
Recorded at Arlyn Studios, Austin Texas May 29th, 1986
Produced by Dino Lee, Engineer Stuart Sullivan
This is a sampler, with a variety of songs by different New Rose artists. This song is widely available online as an MP3, and can even be purchased from Amazon.com.
Lively Up! (1990) New Rose LP, CD - Rose 221CD
(Also issued locally on cassette in 1988/1989? with first 10 songs only).
Download CD image (.wav file): FortuneTellers-LivelyUp!-1990.wav
Lively Up (Bob Marley)
Who Do You Love (Do Diddley)
Livin' In Darkness
Heavy Traffic (dub mix)
Low Down (new version - CD only)
Home Tonight (new version - CD only)
I Wanna Know (new version - CD only)
Produced by Basile Kolliopoulos
Recorded Fall 1988 at Benson Sound
Engineers: Tom Williamson, Gary Dugan
Assistant Producer: Tom Williamson
Tracks 11-13 recorded Spring 1990 at Studio 7
Engineers: John Collins, Marty Dillon
Assistant Producer: Marty Dillon
Basile Koliopoulos: Voice, Guitar
Miho Kolliopoulos: Lead Guitar, Slide
Michael Newberry: Drums
V-Roy Goetz: Bass
Percussion on 4,10: Duane L. Williams
Thank you: John Manson, everybody at VZD, Scott Weiss
Thank you again: Patrick Mathe
Hello: Dr. Feelgood, England's best live band! The Senders, New York's Finest!
"This album dedicated to all who love the Fortune Tellers, for those who do not, the feeling is mutual."
And I guess they were probably required by law to put this on the CD cover:
"warning: explicit guitar solos"
A note from the cassette card: "Basile and Miho play all kinds of guitars exclusively!!"
New Rose Story Vol 2 (Last Call Records - 2000 - 5-CD set)
Lively Up! - 4:15 (Bob Marley)
This is a sampler, with a variety of songs by different New Rose artists. I assume the Fortune Tellers song is identical to the track from the Lively Up! CD. This song is widely available online as an MP3, and can be purchased from Amazon.com.
Basile's Facebook Tribute page: www.facebook.com/basile.kolliopoulos
Basile passed away on January 28, 2013. He was diagnosed with hepatitis C just before Christmas 2012. He caught this late enough to already have advanced liver failure. A few weeks later the doctors found he had terminal liver cancer. Marty put up this Facebook page for him in time for him to get lots of wishes from friends. The day he passed this page started to fill up with tons of stories and photos from many friends. I'm not the only one who knew he was the king of rock and roll. He gave us so much.
My Page on the Reverb Brothers
YouTube video clip of Fortune Tellers at VZDs on 12/31/08 www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1vgjfPmL9w
9:58 - 2 songs - "Protection" right before midnight, and "Livin' in Darkness" right after midnight. Marty is on drums.
YouTube video clip of Fortune Tellers at VZDs on 12/31/08 www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4_0POouQXc
4:43 - "I Wanna Know" - from the second set with Newberry on drums.
YouTube video clip of Fortune Tellers at VZDs on 07/09/10 www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnIOpx74tq4
2:14 - "Good Time?"
YouTube video clip of Fortune Tellers at VZDs on 07/09/10 www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7xme6LKiRQ
2:28 - "Rumble"
Fan site for New Rose Records www.limbos.org/newrose/newrose.htm
Reverb Brothers on Myspace: myspace.com/reverbbros
An old page abandoned long ago. As of 02/02/13 it is still up and you can hear 3 songs from Adult Entertainment.
The Senders (official site): membres.lycos.fr/thesenders/
Phil Marcade: myspace.com/phillipemarcade
(Phil was the lead singer and co-founder of the Senders and is the author of a book (in French) about the band, which includes some pictures of Basile).
Dr Feelgood (official site): drfeelgood.org
Some Newspaper Articles - Transcribed from the Past
Fortune Tellers: Get Your Kicks on Route 666
Facade - July/August 1986 - Jon Mooneyham
Regardless of the opinion some area folk supposedly "in the know" may espouse, the local music scene is pretty fuggin' grim. Waltz into most of the swanko watering holes 'round these parts, and more likely'n not the underwhelmin' sound of some slimy Top Forty-esque ditty bein' pewled out note-for-note by a buncha soap-dicked weasels like the Blades will be blunderin' its way into your earholes. Rather than recoil into the relative merits of a bottle o'hootch in the comfort of your own hovel, you gotta learn to navigate your way around these aural landmines like a spastic Baryshnikov.
One sure-fire solution is ferretin' out where the Fortune Tellers are playin' and makin' like lightnin' to that spot. One o' the select passel o' combos dishin' out a juicy original variant of the "rock" thang in these parts (the Lips, Defenestration and Doug Powell bein' most of the few others), 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 and wishin' I had about a twentieth of the energy the Fortune Cookies (an ad hoc go-go duo comprised o' Basile's wife Lyn and pal Nancy Thomas) expend while dancin'. As evidenced by their two French New Rose LP's (Fortunes Told For Free and Musick Without Tears), the Fortune Tellers (Basile Koliopoulos, front man & guitar; Miho Koliopoulos, lead guitar from hell; Victor Goetz, bass; and Mike Newberry, drums) have come a healthy stretch from their early oily days as the Fensics and gigs at the Boomer. I sat and gabbed with Basile and Manson, their erstwhile manager and interference runner one evenin' whilst sippin' expresso and talkin' in cheap French accents. Here 'tis...
JM: I ran across (a program) for an old Boomer Theatre show with the Cramps and you guys were on the bill (as the Fensics) and the bio stuff was sayin' "No, we're not a punk band. R&B!"
BK: We weren't as refined as we are now but at that time we used to do tunes by Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and also reggae tunes. Goddamn, that was back when...I remember we played this punk festival in Dallas, a total fiasco. Ten people and eighteen bands. We did this song by Toots and the Maytals and then we did Eddie Cochran or some obscure rockabilly tune, and they hadn't heard it back then. Its funny, with all the rockabilly bands comin' outta Dallas right now --- they "got it in their blood", right? I remember when they used to come tell us "you're country punk." And I'd say, "yeah , if Eddie Cochran's country punk, we're country punk." We never wanted to do deliberate things...we'd go for a sound and if it works, fine, and if it doesn't you just kinda switch it around. I think now we got to a point where we can really play what we want to play, exactly.
JM: How did you get the deal with New Rose in France?
BK: That was through Dino Lee. He was already on New Rose and he wanted to record us. We were a little reluctant about it at first. We thought, "What the hell." We didn't do it to get a record deal, we didn't even think about that. We did it and he happened to go to Europe and took the tapes with him and played 'em for the people at New Rose and they really liked it.
JM: So you got a pretty good deal with them?
BK: Its not really a good deal. It's an import, its hard to find and costs a lot of money. (A friend) said he saw (the latest record) in Boston for fifteen bucks. Its a good deal to the exent that you have records out. Your a band, you have records. If you're a painter, you have paintings. So I'm glad about that. But its not like they're sending us thousands of bucks every week. They're the kind of label that has a lot of bands and they put out these records and get excited about it, and they get excited about something else. The Cramps are getting ready to do a new album and everybody has to concentrate on that.
JM: The Cramps are pretty much their bread and butter....
BK: Them and Alex Chilton, in an way, and a few other people...
JM: You still bill yourselves by and large as an R&B band?
BK: Well, yeah, but we aren't really R&B... It's more like a mixture of different influences. We say R&B because we don't wanna say rock and roll, because when you say rock and roll (people think) REO Speedwagon. I don't like that term too much so R&B is something we just like to call ourselves (laughing).
JM: So the covers you guys pick --- what do you usually lean on?
BK: Oldies. We did stuff like Bo Diddley --- I've always liked his stuff. I remember when we played with him I asked him "Hey, is it okay if we do "I Can Tell" all by ourselves?" and he says "yeah, fine, cause I don't do that one anymore."
JM: So what's this obsession with Aliester Crowley that keeps poppin' up in your lyrics?
BK: Well, its nothing really. I'm the only one in the band who reads Aliester Crowley. I've been reading that for a while I think he's really funny. I mean, some of the stuff he writes is hilarious. I thought that since we were called Fortune Tellers and that all those voodoo connotations and all that kind of stuff... Well, I wrote that song and "Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law" just seemed to kind of fit in. And the new album, Musick Without Tears, I thought it would be a real funny title for those who can get the joke.
JM: So we shouldn't read anything "spooky" into Fortune Tellers?
BK: No, no, I don't think there's too much "spookiness" in Aliester Crowley's writings really. To me its really positive so I use it to that extent.
Manson: But play the record backward..(everydody laughs)
JM: So what compels you guys to hang around Oklahoma City then? It isn't the lucrative gig market...
BK: No, but I've lived in New York and right now I'd rather play in a band livin' here than New York. Oh, man it's a nightmare living in New York and being in a band. Oklahoma City's near Austin, Dallas, Kansas City,...places like that. We thought of moving to Austin a while back, but its more fun if we're from out of town. It's more fresh than if we're there and everybody's sick of us.
JM: What would you consider a barometer of success?
BK: I think we're successful to the extent that we do records that we really like, that were happy about. Also being thought as a friend by bands that I always admired. They were doin' somethin' when I wasn't doin' nothin'. And now I'm doing something and they like it. To me that's a big complement. We've already got the artistic part down, if we could sell more records and be able to play and y'know, ask more money so that nobody had to have a job, that'd be perfect.
For Fortunate R&B Band, Oklahoma City the Place
Nicole LeWand - Sunday edition of Daily Oklahoman (late 1986)
The Fortune Tellers, an Oklahoma City rhythm'n'blues band, recently returned home after recording a second album - Musick Without Tears - in Austin.
The Fortune Tellers' next engagement will be Wednesday at the Xodus Society's New Year's Eve party at 100 E. California, Bricktown.
Oklahoma City doesn't seem like the most profitable place for four ambitious R&B musicians. Especially when Austin is so close. Austin and other big cities offer recording studios, record contracts, and some of the hottest clubs in the country. These temptations have enticed a number of bands, but not the Fortune Tellers. For them, Austin is just another place to record and play. Oklahoma City is home. "Oklahoma City, this is like home turf," said Basile Kolliopoulos, Fortune Teller guitarist and vocalist. He and his brother, guitarist Miho, hail from Athens, Greece. "There are not many bands here who play what the people want them to. People come to hear us because we don't play Top 40," Basile said. "We were thinking about moving to Austin a couple of years ago. We have a lot of friends down there. But we realized we didn't want to go there and be the next in line, you know, trying to get a little piece of this and little piece of that. Miho agreed. "Its pretty saturated in Austin, there's way too many bands for the clubs," he said.
Though faithful to the basics of Bo Diddley and James Brown, the Fortune Tellers add the sounds of Greek instruments to their brand of R&B. How do they describe their sounds? "You mean name another band we sound like?" Basile asked. "In my opinion...well I don't know. Miho, who do we sound like?" Miho skips all comparisons and describes what he hears. "Rhythmic rock and roll with a wild guitar and vocals to it." "Yeah," Basile said, "Its kind of like a combination of Bo Diddley and James Brown with a Greek guy singing on top of it.
The music they record is the music they listened to in Athens in the '60's. But the music was not Greek - it was hardcore R&B and solid soul. They had access to R&B records - rare in Greece - from a friend who owned a record store. After school, Basile and Miho would listen to the blues. It was then that Basile realized that he wanted to be a recording artist.
"At my friend's store I remember I heard my first blues record. It was Booker White's Mississippi Delta Blues. It was wilder-sounding than anything I have ever heard. I knew I wanted to do that," he said.
Miho said the band picked the tunes for the new album, which will be released this spring, from a collection of original material. "We have our material ready at any time," Basile said. "We just pick 10 songs to do that night." Since the band was well-prepared, it only took two days to record the album.
Though the band and the fans were pleased with the first album (which sold about 25,000 copies), Basile said they were happier with the second album. They describe it as less rock'n'roll, more straightforward R&B, and more "live" sounding than the first album, Fortune Told For Free. "The new album is definitely more guitar oriented than the first one by 50 percent," Basile said. "Its a result of working with different producers."
Their friend Dino Lee, known around Austin as "The King of White Trash", produced Fortunes Told For Free. And it was Lee who first introduced New Rose records to the Fortune Tellers.
With the help of producer Mike Stewart, a former Oklahoman, the band produced the second album. Devoid of studio gimmicks, it's an album truer to the bands live sound. "The first time I didn't really get my live sound the way I wanted it," Miho said.
Basile said the band is content with New Rose because the label is more interested in producing original talent than in packaging what Basile calls "product". "That's real important because we don't want to be like a product, a package deal, where you're going to be told how to record and where and how to do this and that," Basile said. "No one would mind if we sold a lot of records, but we're not going to change our ways to do so," Miho said.
Creative control is one advantage of an independent label. The Tellers selected the music for the first two albums, helped mix them and designed the cover art.
Another advantage to having a record label is getting more gigs: The Tellers are planning to tour Europe next spring and club dates are planned for Austin, Houston, Nashville, Columbia, Mo., and, of course, Oklahoma City.
Fortune Tellers Shed No Tears
Robert Medley (Daily Oklahoman?, late 1986 or early 1987)
The Fortune Tellers are making music without tears nowadays.
When the Oklahoma City based New Rose recording artists open for the band Walk the West today, they will give the audience a taste of their upcoming second album titled "Musick Without Tears".
The Fortune Tellers, harbingers of leopard-skin speaker cabinets, leather suits and tattooed blues music, have continued to pursue the traditional sounds on the new album, backed by a weird Bo Diddley beat. "The rhythm is a little different now, the accents are different," Basile Kolliopoulos, rhythm guitarist and lead singer said. "We're doing a couple of things with the Bo Diddley sound and trying to incorporate it into our sound." He said that drummer Mike Newberry plays tom-toms instead of a regular bass drum and snare, following the bass and guitar line. The result is a belly-dancing, Middle Eastern kind of rhythm, Kolliopoulos said.
The Fortune Tellers will perform with Walk the West at 9pm today at After Daddy's Money, 6825 Wilshire Blvd, in Oklahoma City.
The song D.M.F. is one of the soothsaying musician's songs about the Chilean police, who throw gasoline on students and light them on fire. "That's why the song says "If you set me on fire, if you do it just once," Kolliopoulos said.
As a native Greek, Kolliopoulos is continually dismayed at musical and political conditions in the United States. On his last visit to Athens, Greece, he met with a producer who records the equivalent of hardcore blues or Mexican music here. He was impressed with the bands he saw in the Mediterranean clubs.
"Is This Your Idea of A Good Time" is based on an old John Lee Hooker song. Its about people in the United States whose idea of a good time is getting some beer and watching TV. This is what the establishment wants you to do, so you can't think about what is going on," Kolliopoulos said.
Since the release of their first album, Fortunes Told For Free, the band also has been included on the New Rose compilation album "Play New Rose For Me," and are featured doing "Bo Diddley Put the Rock in Rock and Roll" on a double album set with the Panther Burns, Psyche, and the Dead Kennedys.
The band's latest album, recorded in Austin, Texas, and produced by Mike Stewart of the Tailgators, should be out in February, and features nine songs. Kolliopoulos said he is most confident with two possible musical gems: "Is This Your Idea of a Good Time?" and "No More Bright Lights", which includes backup vocals from Alejandro Escovedo of the Austin band the True Believers.
Brandishing guitars and wearing slick suits, the Fortune Tellers are not showing off as much skin lately. This change in live performing is on account of winter, Kolliopoulos said. "We don't sit around and think about how we're going to dress up. But, it is as much a style as a hardcore band has a style. Clothes categorize people, like when you go out, you meet someone who is dressed the same, its a little communication thing," Kolliopoulos said.
The Fortune Tellers
Thomas Anderson -
Oklahoma Gazette - March 2, 1988 p25, 35
I love the Fortune Tellers. So should you. They are our local rock'n'roll heroes, they are our elder statesmen, they are survivors, and are local treasures that should be honored far above and beyond the gaudy tourist traps we tend to venerate around here like the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the oil derricks in front of the governor's mansion, and the OU/Texas Weekend. The Fortune Tellers are strangers in a strange land and are an institution in it. They are larger than life. Let me count the ways.
** April, 1983. The first article I did for a national publication was for a New York rock'n'roll mag called "Trouser Press". The article was one in a series called "America Underground", dealing with hip, unsigned bands in local markets all across the country. I wrote about Oklahoma. Then I wrote, "Perhaps the finest band in the state, the Fortune Tellers, can be heard punching out their lean rhythm and blues in Oklahmoa City and Norman. The four-piece has opened shows for Tav Falco's Panther Burns and Joe "King" Carasco, among others. More often than not, they've walked away with the show.
** Spring, 1984. The Fortune Tellers serve as Bo Diddley's backup band at a Bowery show. It is the most awesome, raw, bone-crushing rock and roll I've heard in a long, long time. It knocks the girls off their stilleto heels and strangles the guys on their skinny boutique neckties. Fights break out. Pandemonium reigns supreme. Bo Diddley IS the gunslinger, and riding shotgun the Fortune Tellers are stone-faced and deadly. No one who was there has ever forgotten it.
** March, 1984. Doing an "American Underground" update for "Trouser Press" I wrote, "Farther west lies Oklahoma City...Here...one can still find the Fortune Tellers, perhaps the world's only Greek-born rockabilly band among the brightest talents in the state".
** February, 1985. John Cale plays the Bowery. At the last minute Fortune Teller singer Basile Kolliopoulos is brought in to do a solo set as an openning act. The first two songs he does are Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do?" and the Stooges' "No Fun". Savvy choices - the Jimmy Reed song was covered by Cale on his Helen of Troy album (which has never been released in America), and the Stooges' first LP, (which contained "No Fun"), was produced by Cale. Basile knows a lot about records beyond those on the Sun and Chess labels.
** September, 1986. I pan the Fortune Tellers' first album, "Fortunes
Told For Free" in "Creem". A major disappointment. In retrospect I've
come to decide that the blandness of that disc is probably the fault
of producer Dino lee.
Dino Lee is this Austin, Texas rock'n'roll "character" of which every major city has an example - like Joe Christ of the Healing Faith in Dallas, and like San Franciscos' Jello Biafra, that is until he discovered political rhetoric. Dino Lee has a foot-tall bouffant and outrageous apparel accessorized by such accoutrements as a huge vibrator he calls "General Lee". You get the picture. But on his own first record, Dino Lee is as tame as powdered milk. Straight frat-rock all the way. Farfisa organs even. So probably not the best producer for a Fortune Tellers record.
** Presently. The Fortune Tellers have a new record out called "Musick Without Tears". It's a lot better than the earlier set. Miho Kolliopoulos' guitars moan and wail over the eight songs and Basile comes up with the most convincingly wasted vocals since Lou Reed wheezed his way through "Some Kinda Love" on the Velvet's third album (and that's a compliment). A tough, fine record by any standards. You should own a copy.
The Fortune Tellers are the afore-mentioned Basile and Miho Kolliopoulos plus Victor "V-Roy" Goetz on bass and Mike Newberry on drums. They record for New Rose records, a label based in Paris, France. Half the band is from Greece. They play rhythm'n'blues. They've seen it all. They've lived it all. They've also spawned at least a couple of other bands in the Ortegas and the Reverb Brothers. I personally don't care to hear either of them. They may be great, but as Dobie Gray said, "The original is still the greatest." It's time you got acquainted with the original.
Gazette: So how do two brothers living in Greece discover rhythm'n'blues?
Basile: The music I grew up with is very rhythmic-oriented - traditional Greek music, not the commercial stuff, y'know "Bazoukis By the Moonlight," the stuff that you hear - real Greek music is real rhythmic, almost low-down sounding because they've got a lot of African influences and lot of Middle Eastern influences, a combination of that. Because Greece falls in the lower part of Europe real close to the Middle East, we had more ties with that culture than say with France and London and that kinda stuff. We used to hang out at this record store and the people that owned it were into rhythm'n'blues. They had a big collection, they used to bring their own records and play 'em for everybody. So I heard Bukka White. There was one album called "Memphis Hotshots", it was real rare, it was the only electric album he ever did. It just knocked me out, man, his voice sounded like Captain Beefheart or somethin' but it had that real simplistic backbeat thing, and I knew that was what I really liked musically. So I started collecting John Lee Hooker and B.B. King and all those kinds of records, because there was a real close tie to that beat and the Greek music I grew up with. Me and Miho used to sneak out where these Greek bands came to play in the square, they'd have these festivals, they'd play and they'd have this real reverb-trebly sound and do this stuff almost like Afro-Cuban but also real close to Chicago blues, so when I heard Howlin' Wolf it was exactly the same thing! So y'know it was really strange but it was really tied together.
Gazette: How did you get to Oklahoma City?
Basile: Well, there was a dictatorship going on, Papouthopoulas was the guy. There was gonna be elections in '67, and the left wing was suddenly going to win, so they didn't want that, so the army took over. Colleges and universities were strictly controlled, and everybody was like halfway revolting and lot of people were getting in trouble, so I realized and my dad realized that I'd probably get into trouble sooner or later if I stayed there. So he said, "Y'know, you got those two uncles in America and you can go there if you want." And I said, "Yeah, right!" That's why I came to Oklahoma City - because I had some relatives.
Gazette: Tell me about forming the band.
Basile: I didn't get a band together for a long time. When I came here I didn't know nobody because I wanted to be a painter. I went to art schoool, I graduated, had art shows, y'know, this and that. Then I got together with this guy Wayne, and that's when the Fenzics first started happening - about '78, 79. Miho didn't get here til years after I got here. He was livin' in France, in Paris, he was goin' to architecture school. When he finished school he didn't want to go back either so he came here since I was here. When he came over he was a better guitar than either me or Wayne so we asked him to join the band, and that's how it happened.
Then I went to New York after that and joined the Senders. It was a rhythm'n'blues band. I met 'em, we hung out, we got to be good friends. At the time they were lookin' for an extra guitar player. I jammed with 'em then I moved back, and they called me and said they decided they wanted me. So that was like a dream come true - I'm in New York, I playin' with a cool R&B band, and we play CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, it was wild, it was great. But that kind of fell through because of problems with the band, and probably a little excess, too much of this, and alot of that, y'know. Things kinda fell apart.
Gazette: Wasn't it around then that a member of your band died?
Basile: That was the danger of the Fensics. See, Wayne was the original singer, then he didn't wanna do it no more and we got Joe, Joe Thompson. Joe was like a great guy, like a poet. And that's the reason why I went to New York, because he decided to move there. He had a free place to stay for a couple of years so I stayed with him. That's when I met the Senders. But he overdosed on heroin, which is pretty unfortunate, in 1980, and Victor was with me at the same time, and didn't have any means to stay in New York. We didn't have a free apartment, we didn't want to get a job, things like that, so that's why we came back.
Gazette: You changed the name of the band from the Fensics to the Fortune Tellers and then you hooked up with New Rose. How did that happen?
Basile: That was through Dino Lee. I met Dino when he played at the Bowery a long time ago. I just went out to see him and I liked the look and I liked the sound. I said, "Hey you can stay at my house if you all have no place to stay." And he says, "Okay, we'll do that." I play 'em a lot of stuff that they've never heard before, and every time they come through town they always come by and hang out. Anyway he calls up one day and says he got signed with New Rose. I'd heard of New Rose 'cause Bo Diddley was already on New Rose. So he says, "Come on down and we'll do a tape. I got access to this studio. I'll produce you guys." So we go down there and we did this tape, did it in two days - the first record - one night of recording and one night of mixing. That's all the money we had to spend. So Dino goes to Paris that Christmas, plays it for Patrick who is the owner of New Rose and he really likes it. Then Dino came here on New Year's Eve, with a record contract. We thought, "Wow, this is great!" (laughs) So there came that record.
Gazette: Why do you have these off-shoot bands like the Ortegas and the Reverb Brothers?
Basile: I really wanna do some real low-down blues with upright bass and harmonica, real, real trashy blues. That's why I did the Reverb Brothers. I guess the other two came over and watched and got jealous 'cause we sounded good. Miho's much more into straight rock'n'roll than I am, he really likes the old Yardbirds and that kind of stuff, so they decided, "Hey, let's do our little thing, too. If he can do it, we can do it!"
Gazette: What's the biggest difficulty you've faced in trying to make it in the music business?
Basile: The fact that we're too rock for the blues crowd and too blues for the punk crowd. Like we play these colleges and we don't play college music, 'cause I don't go up there and start strummin' away and start talking about the sun and the moon and the herbs or whatever y'know what I mean? It's hard for us to get through that, and that is the only thing that really frustrates me. We're tryin' to get signed with an American label and these independents are worse than the majors. It's like there's one trap and there's another trap, it depends on which one you wanna fall in. The independents - "Oh, you don't fit the format. You guys are great but if you'd play twelve-string Rickenbachers and sing about something with more substance, we'd probably sign you, but..." And then the majors are, "Oh, yeah, you guys are great. We're gonna give you a hundred thousand dollars but we're gonna make you sound like Bon Jovi before you know what the hell happened!"
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.
Success of Fortune Tellers Reflects City's Music Scene
Steve Hill - Oklahoma Gazette - December 7, 1988
It's only fitting that the winner of the "Best Local Band" catgory of the Oklahoma Gazette's inaugural music awards should be the Fortune Tellers. Whether or not one feels the band deserves the title, no other band better reflects the successes and failures of the local music scene in the latter half of the Eighties. As go the Fortune Tellers, so has gone the Oklahoma City music scene.
Its no coincidence that the band has been closely associated with the city's most adventurous clubs - from the Bowery to the Velvet Underground, to VZD's and the Blue Note. Nor is it coincidence that the Wickers and Dub Factor - two of the city's best up-and-coming bands - owe no small part of their success to early gigs as opening acts for the Fortune Tellers.
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.
"We're survivors," said Basile Kolliopoulos, who along with brother Miho and Victor Goetz and Mike Newberry make up the Tellers. "Two years ago people scorned us because we played guitar solos," Kolliopoulos said. "Now guitar bands are in and we're cool.
"People go out to see live music and most of the leave disappointed, but that's OK because that's how it should be." "Rock'n'roll is like art," Kolliopoulos said. "you're creating something that didn't previously exist. A few people show up in art galleries because they like art. They get into what the artist is doing - bu t not everyone appreciates it. Its not like a Safeway where everybody goes because they have to. "I don't want to sound negative but that's just the way things are when you want to do something that's your own."
The Fortune Tellers' stance - doing something that was their own in the face of an audience that was weaned on Top 40 cover bands and oldies acts - demanded that the crowd meet the band halfway. That Oklahoma City audiences were willing to make that small step represents a giant leap for the city's music scene.
"People seem to have a wider awareness of music," said Chris Hicks, winner of the Musician of the Year award and leader of the Chris Hicks Band. "Instead of 'All I like are oldies' or "All I like is Top 40', crowds are more aware of other types of music. "A better educated audience gives the bands more freedom," he said. "If radio stations would open up - by playing a wider variety of music and not just the hits - if they were more daring it would be easier for everyone."
And although the money is still tight, nearly everyone agrees the bands are getting better. "There's more quality." said Hicks, "Some of the newer bands like Dub Factor, the Wickers, and the Chris Hicks Band are good." "Members of different bands are collaborating. It seems like the hottest musicians are spread out in different bands. Its really cool that they're working together now. Two years ago people were sticking to their own thing."
Duane Lamont Williams, who leads Dub Factor and collaborates with Hicks in the Chris Hicks band, concurs. "Its just the times," he said. "Everybody's paying more attention to what everybody else is doing. It used to be cold and had a weird vibe like everybody wwas getting off on making everyone else uneasy. I think the musicians are working together very well, and that's changing the scene."
"The bands are getting better" said Chris Royse of the Wickers. "There seems to be a little better support." Royse thinks all the Oklahoma City Music scene lacks is a local band signed to a major label. "One band makes it - and about five more will get picked up," he said.
"I'm not making any more money," said John Mason, of Vacant Stare Productions, "but there is more variety and quality than there was a few years ago. "The only thing right now that is problematic is I'm afraid some of these things are being taken for granted People forget how boring Oklahoma City can be without these things. If these shows and bands and clubs aren't supported, it won't continue to happen."
"The attitude is better," said Kolliopoulos. "People are open to more types of music - but a lot of the new bands seem to have the same sound." "They have this Neil Young influence that anyone can get up onstage and strum anything and it will sound allright - but it doesn't. There's no emphasis on rhythm. Its mostly just people screwing around on drums. Its the Flaming Lips syndrome - its anti-rhythm. "They are forgetting one thing - rock'n'roll has to have rhythm. All I hear is a barrage of sound - but there's nothing there. I would suggest these bands get more into rhythm adn forget about this psychedelic bullshit. That's my humble opinion. "These bands need to place more of an influence on the rhythm," Kolliopoulos said. "I'd rather stay home and hear it in my house if its not dance music."
As long as the Fortune Tellers stand their ground and ranks continue to swell in the numbers behind them, Oklahome City will continue to dance to their rhythms.
Letter to the editor - Stage Left - January 1989
(Basile wrote this letter to the editor of a short-lived local free music paper called Stage Left in response to an article in the previous issue in which Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips had a few unkind words about the Fortune Tellers. I don't have that issue, but I do remember Wayne saying something like "We couldn't care less about the history of rock and roll." Although the bands are on opposite ends of the musical spectrum, and there may have been some back and forth (see Basile's comments in the above article) I think I can say that there has also been some mutual respect, and there has even been some collaboration on some experimental projects. Anyway, I'm certainly not wanting to promote any bad feelings).
As a rule I hate to explain myself, but after reading Wayne "Flaming Lips" Coyne's remarks (Life as a Lip, issue 3) about my band, the Fortune Tellers, I feel like I must.
So, our "little sickie band", as Coyne so eloquently describes, has been doing the "same damn thing" for years?
1. The Fortune Tellers always put emphasis on rhythm first and foremost and if it takes us 20 years to get it right then we will do so.
2. We never acted like a big deal, whatever the fuck that means, and never said that R&B is a new thing, its just the music we like to play.
3. Coyne really misses the boat on the "nothing there" remarks because obviously to him only what the Lips do matters. The problem with people like the Flaming Lips is that with all their "weird" stuff, smoke and pseudo-experimental shit, more often than not they end up sounding like the Who on qualudes, which is the last thing I want to hear.
Basile Kolliopoulos Oklahoma City
P.S. He was right about one thing: we are nice guys!
New Years Happier With Release of Teller's "Lively Up'
Steve Hill - Oklahoma Gazette (early 1990?)
Happy new year. And its all the happier thanks to the Fortune Tellers cassette-only release of Livley Up" - the best local recording to ever wind up in my hands. In fact, labelling it a local recording is a bit of a disservice. "Lively Up" has logged more time in my tape deck the past few weeks than any release by national acts. "Lively Up" is the sound of a band hitting on all its cylinders.
The Fortune Tellers first album, "Fortunes Told for Free" was weighed down by a muddy production. The followup, "Musick Without Tears" was good, but sounded a little cautious compared to the bands often raucous live shows.
"Lively Up" presents the band at its best - loud, raw and rockin'. What separates the Tellers from the hundreds of other rootsy guitar bands is the group's rock-solid rhythm section of Victor Goetz and Mike Newberry - which is to take nothing away from Miho Kolliopoulos's vicous leads or Basile's familiar growl.
Let's face facts, however. Every town in America has at least a dozen screaming guitar bands. None of 'em spread the Big Noise over the Big Beat the way our Fortune Tellers do.
The tape opens with the Tellers rave-up rendtion of Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" and slips into a blistering take on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love". Then the tape takes an unexpected turn - just one of "Lively Up"'s many surprises - into a quiet delta blues instrumental titled "Sanguine", showcasing Miho's delicate slide work.
The tape ends with another instrumental, a positively funky rocker entitled "Heavy Traffic", driven by Newberry and Goetz.
My single favorite moment on the tape occurs at the end of "Who Do You Love." The band races to the song's conclusion, then stops on a dime. Basile breaks the moment of silence with a satisfied "Yeah".
And that, in a word, summarizes my feelings on the Fortune Tellers' latest recording. "Yeah". The tape will be available at the band's shows. The Fortune Tellers will play with Bo Diddley at VZD's on January 25. More details on that show later.
Some Differences in Direction Cause Fortune Tellers to Quit
Stve Hill - Oklahoma Gazette - April 25, 1990
Sitting down? Good. The Fortune Tellers have apparently gazed into their future and not liked what they've seen. The veteran Oklahoma City band, two-time "Band of the Year" winners in the Oklahoma Gazette Music Awards Competition, have called it quits.
"There were just some personal differences in direction," said guitarist Basile Kolliopoulos. "I was tired of dealing with the rock and roll scene. I wasn't happy playing that anymore. I want to get away from what's happening".
We weren't really going anywhere. You can't just get up onstage anymore, you've got to put on a spectacle. I really like the blues. I'd rather be competing against someone like Buddy Guy than the Flaming Lips."
The timing of the announcement came as somewhat of a surprise since the band had been in contract negotiations with Restless Records, and were in the process of rerecording material from their first two albums for a compilation disc to be issued by the French label New Rose.
"That record deal was a bunch of bull," Kolliopoulos said, "They wanted us to be a hard rock band. We probably would have broken up later. Better to get it over with now."
Kolliopoulos and drummer Mike Newberry will continue to play in the Reverb Brothers. The Reverbs are planning a summer trip to Clarksdale, Miss - home of Muddy Waters - to record new material at the legendary Stockhouse Delta Recording Studios. Its a funky little studio, totally unhip," said Kolliopoulos. "Its perfert for us. We're going to play minimal blues. Real stripped down bare bones blues. Not a lot of solos. It'll be real different from what other blues bands are doing."
The Fortune Teller's other half, Miho Kolliopoulos and bass player Victor Goetz - have been working out with drummer Marty Dillon. Goetz, Kolliopoulos and Dillon played together in the Ortegas and Rhythm Associates.
Looks like the competition for band of the year is wide open.
Fortune Tellers Up to Old Tricks on New Years Eve
George Lang - Oklahoma Gazette - December 29, 1994
New Years Eve brings with it anticipation of things to come, as well as the dread of possible obstacles ahead in 1995. Perhaps, in light of perilous uncertainty, going to a fortune teller could make things come out all right. Or maybe four of them will do the trick. For the eighth year in a row, the Fortune Tellers, Oklahoma's pereeminent hard blues band is headlining the New Years bash at VZD's 4200 N Western.
Drummer Mike Newberry said the Fortune Tellers have a solid background in roots music, but don't expect seminal, purist recreations of Robert Johnson, or mellow-tinged updates along the lines of Bonnie Rait or John Hiatt. "We're all big blues fans, but we're not traditionalists," Newberry said. "We play hard-driving music. We can't be laid back, no matter how hard we try."
The Fortune Tellers began to tell the future of racous guitar blues in 1978, with Basile Kolliopoulos on lead vocals, Miho Kolliopoulos on lead guitar, and bassist Victor Goetz. Drummer Newberry joined six years later.
In their 16 years together, the Fortune Tellers have had several brushes with domestic record labels, but the bands and the execs could never reach an agreement. "We've been round and round with A&M, Enigma, and Restless, but it wasn't right for us," Newberry said. "We like to do things our own way - we're getting old and set in our ways. The labels are used to signing young guys. We don't bend too easily. We're successful on our own scale, so we don't mess with it."
Instead, the Fortune Tellers found sanctuary on the other side of the Atlantic. New Rose, a French label, has put out three Fortune Tellers discs, including their most recent CD, "Lively Up!". In addition, Newberry predicts the release of a live album early next year, after which the band will enter the studio to record its fifth release.
The title track to "Lively Up!" is a nasty howling blues-rock cover of the Bob Marley classic, trading the skank in favor of the rank. On slower tracks such as "Sanguine," the mood is something straight out of Big Tuna, Texas, so much so that you expect Willem Dafoe to bare his pulpy teeth at any moment.
If there is a spiritual kinship to found with the Fortune Tellers it would be Reverend Horton Heat, although with a funkier bent. If the stateside companies can't come to terms with the Fortune Tellers, perhaps they don't deserve them.
In their live performances, the Fortune Tellers emphasize original songs. "Our shows are 90 percent originals and some very select covers, like old Bo Diddley or Dr. Feelgood," Newberry said.
During their down time, band members perform together and separately in various outfits, including MVM, the Reverb Brothers and the Deviants, who will perform their last set with Newberry as opening act at the New Years Eve show. However the core for Newberry has always been the Fortune Tellers. "We're more than a band, we're a family," he said.
As for their future fortunes, Newberry offers a hopeful prognostication. "This is the eighth year in a row for us to perform the New Years Eve show, and hopefully we'll still be doing it eight years from now," he said.
Phil Bacharach - Oklahoma Gazette - December 29, 2010
The Fortune Tellers with Feel Spectres and DJ Eddie Lee
9PM Friday, VZD's Restaurant and Club
If you were in Oklahoma City during that era when cell phones were bigger than irons and neckties were skinnier than Calista Flockhart - the 1980's, for those of you playing along at home - and had any interest in rock'n'roll, chances are that you spent more than a few sweat-stained evenings immersed in the sound of the Fortune Tellers.
Serving up a sizzling stew of R&B, the Fortune Tellers were among the most beloved groups to make the round in the metro music scene. Although the band split up in 1990, and many of its one-time stomping grounds - The Bowery, Liberty Drug - no longer exist, the outfit's musical chops remain very much intact. And so it is that the Teller's lineup of guitarists/brothers Basile and Miho Kolliopoulos, bassist Victor Goetz, and drummer Marty Dillon will reunite Friday for a New Year's Eve show at VZD's.
The venue is a natural homecoming for the group, who blew the lid off the place (figuratively speaking, natch) on more than a few New Year's Eves in the 80's. It also marks an Oklahoma City return for Miho Kolliopoulos, who has lived in his native Greece the past several years. Although he still works for a local architectural firm, Elliot + Associates, he executes most of his job over the Internet.
"In a sense, I never left, because my day job is here", said Kolliopoulos, 55. "I come back to town two or three times a year and stay for a month, and then the rest of the time I'm in Athens. I lived here so long I'm more comfortable here than I am there, to tell you the truth."
Then again, he said he and Basile were drawn to the US even when they were children in Athens.
"American music was really big when we were growing up," he said. "There were radio programs that would specialize in that. We were exposed to Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy early on."
Years later, Baslie wouldup studying at Oklahoma City University when he formed a band with Goetz and drummer Mike Newberry. Back in Athens, Miho was finishing up his third year of mandatory military service. [The interviewer had a misunderstanding - Miho was never in the military, he left Greece partly to get out of having to do the military service.]
"Basile called and asked me if I would consider playing guitar with them," Miho said, chuckling at the remembrance. "I weighed the possibilities and I thought, 'Hmm, I think I'll just catch a plane and go over there.'"
That was 1979. Within a few years, The Fortune Tellers - the name came from an Allen Toussaint-penned R&B standard - had captured the attention and adoration of Oklahoma City's music scene.
"I don't mean to be disrespectful to anyone saying this, but at the time we got started, the music scene in the city had stagnated a bit," Miho Kolliopoulos said. "There were cover bands more akin to play Top 40 from English bands that were big at the time. Both of us (he and Basile) have a great love for the music that was born here."
No cheesy synthsizers or drum machines were in the Fortune Teller's arsenal. Their originals and covers traversed the bare-knuckled soundscapes of Bo Diddley, Dale Hawkins and Link Wray. Diddley, in fact, made The Fortune Tellers his backup band during a few stops in Oklahoma City.
It is not surprising that the group felt more clsely aligned with R&B than with rock'n'roll.
"R&B has roots that go further back in time," Miho Kolliopoulos said. "In that sense, it has a little more seriousness to it. To me, they are really close together. One stems from the other. It's all dance music. If you play it, and people dance to it, well...it may be R&B and it may be rock'n'roll, and that's fine."
The Fortune Tellers made three records during their heyday. By the close of the decade, however, the grind of regional touring had worn thin, and the band dissolved. Basile went on to focus on what had been a side project, The Reverb Brothers, while his younger sibling returned to the world of architecture, which he had studied years earlier in Paris.
"When we were 25 and 26, we would play in Chicago on Saturday, St. Louis on Sunday, drive back to Oklahoma City in the middle of the night and be at the office by 7 o'clock in the morning," Miho Kolliopoulos said. "By the time you're 30 or 35, you can't do that anymore."
And although the idea occasionally crossed their minds about trying to make a go of it in a more musically rich hotspot like Austin, Texas, the Tellers ultimately decided that Oklahoma City was where they belonged.
"From an artistic viewpoint," Miho Kolliopoulos said, "I always thought that artistically for a rock'n'roll musician to be here would be a priviledge more than it would be a setback."
Revised 10/12/15, 02/17/13, 05/01/11.
This page first posted to the web 01/18/09.
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