OBITUARY FOR ANASTASIOS KARATZA
On March 10, 2018, Anastasios Karatza, 67, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, died peacefully at his home after a long battle with Cancer. He is survived by his wife, Diana, and daughter Anastasia Karatza, as well as the many friends and colleagues in the Greek and Rock music worlds.
Anastasios, known to many as Ernie Kamanis, was a true Renaissance Man. He was an entrepreneur, a carpenter, an artist, a true geek, well-versed in computers and networking, a cook, a wonderful husband, and father. However, he’s probably most well-known for his music, both in the Greek and Rock genres. Known primarily as a guitar and bouzouki player, he often connected more with music as a drummer.
He started young in the music world, forming his first band, the Rivets, at age 14. Always looking ahead, he made connections wherever and whenever he could, finally landing a job a few years later as a drummer (even though he was primarily a guitar player) for a band called Listening that had just been signed to Vanguard Records. Through his work with Listening, he made some connections with bands like Cream and Jefferson Airplane. Listening wasn’t where Anastasios was fated to end up, though. He met Andy Pratt and recorded an album with him on Columbia Records. The single released from that album “Avenging Annie”, became a hit, and was known for the unusual “backwards guitar” in the song, which was created by Anastasios! The song was later covered by many other artists including Roger Daltry of the Who. After a successful tour with Andy, Anastasios was contacted by Boz Scaggs to tour with him as his lead guitar player, along with Rick Shlosser, drummer extraordinaire. After touring with Boz for a few years, playing stadiums and venues in almost every city in the US, Anastasios had the opportunity to join the Edgar Winter Group filling in for Ronnie Montrose. He also did some studio work in Nashville working with many well-known musicians there.
He spent almost 20 years living out of a suitcase, and while tiring, it afforded him the opportunity to not only collaborate with musicians from almost every genre, but also just spend time with some of the guys he looked up to including Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Miles, the Chambers Brothers, Miles Davis, Rick Derringer, and more. He even took some time to do a little acting, and was in an episode of a locally shot TV series, “Spencer for Hire”.
After spending so much time away from family and friends in Boston, Anastasios came back home to start another chapter of his musical life.
He and his brother, George, were the sons of a foremost Greek Oud player and singer Costa Kamanis; together they formed a Greek band with Anastasios playing an instrument called the Bouzouki. Known as the Kamanis Brothers, they set the New England music scene on fire, breathing new life into this ethnic genre. Their huge success with various musicians (most notably Joe Kouyoumjian, Harry Bedrossian, Mitchell Kaltsunas, Leon Manoogian to name a few) at Raymond Bandar’s Averof Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts helped the 1970s and 1980s become the Golden Era of Middle Eastern music and dance in New England.
Anastasios will be remembered for his immense talent and showmanship, his incredible sense of humour, his business acumen, and, above all his gentle spirit.
Ernie was absolutely the BEST guitar player I ever played with - and certainly one of the best musicians. Of more importance, however might be his quality as a good man. Always positive.
My sympathy is with you and your family. I am grateful for the imprint that Ernie left on the music and culture of New England.
Diane, memories make us who we are, clearly you had so many with the love of such a talented man at your side.
May all that you shared give you power in these times of loss. Yes, you can no longer touch him but you will always feel his presence and that is what the real power of love is.
Blessing to both sides of your family as you pass through these days of prayer...🦋🦋🦋
Diana, good morning. We only had but the one dinner together years ago. It was a lovely evening for me with you and Ernie. We spoke of you and Vincent Price, me and Nantucket but definitely not enough about Ernie. The three of us spoke briefly of his involvement in the music scene, but I had no idea that I was dining with rock music and exotic dancing royalty. Thank you for sharing Ernie with me that evening. A lovely fellow. May he Rest in Peace. See you soon Diana
What an incredible life he lived, and he was so lucky to have you as a part of it, Diana. May you find peace as you grieve. Much love.
Sincere condolences Diana, Anastasia and family on the loss of your husband and father Ernie. He was a tremendous human being and it came through with his stage presence. His musical talents far surpassed most of the middle eastern musicians that he played with, but he never acted condescending towards anyone. Many of these musicians were mesmerized watching him play,including myself, and we really had to concentrate in order to accompany him. He was a blast to play with. God bless his soul and God comfort you. Sincerely Ken
Ernie not only made a powerful impression as a stunning bouzouki player but also in the role of drummer on many a stellar night at the Averof. He stood out in his vocals as well but it was his instrumental improvisation which could range from traditional to rock bouzouki that made an impact no matter who his fellow musicians were on stage. He handled songs by Ageloupoulos and Dalaras equal to and often exceeding the intensity of their performances. If nothing else Ernie will be remembered for often being better than the original and an original himself! So many moments on stage and in the audience with Ernie but one stands out. An afternoon with barely anyone in the Averof and his dad Costas on oud and singing. The blending and contrast in styles was monumental and a legacy to watch. His father gave him beaming smiles. I also recall during one of my performances turning upstage during a very emotional improvised bouzouki solo and seeing a wink and smile from Ernie. "For you maestro he whispered" but it was you who were maestro Ernie. Always in my heart and always feeling the power of music. You will be missed but not forgotten by those who shared this earth and those musical magical moments with you. Safe travels my friend...