Saturday, December 7, 2013

My singing cousins

It is amazing, since I have a tin ear, that two of my first cousins were professional singers.

My Mother’s family left Turkey after the Catastrophe and went to France. My Mothers oldest brother was there to avoid the Turkish draft.

Mom married my Father in Paris and they went to the States in 1927.

When I went to Paris with my Mother in 1946 as a chubby American kid, to see my Grandmother, who unfortunately was dying, I met my Mothers family for the first time. 

Mom had an older brother and sister as well as two younger brothers and a younger sister.

Her older sister, my Thea Fotini, had three sons, Marco, Jean, and Vasso, they all were tailors, like the rest of the family. I have no idea why they were tailors; maybe the oldest brother who was there before was one.

Two of her sons, my cousins, Jean and Vasso, were singers as well as tailors, the tailors that sang or the singing tailors. Not their stage names. One, Jean Marco ( Marcopoulos ) became very famous after the war. He unfortunately died in a car crash in the early 50s, just as he was really getting famous and about to appear in a movie.

Jean would come to my uncle’s house where we were staying; he was in his early twenties, handsome and unbelievable charming. The family gathered there frequently to visit with us, since they hadn’t seen Mom in 20 years. Jean would bring his guitar and sing for us. He sang songs from Asia Minor, Greek rembetika songs, French ones that he wrote, and I vaguely remember him singing some popular American songs. I wish I could remember which ones.

All I remember is how happy the family was, he was magnetic and it was obvious that the whole family loved him and were proud of him.

Jean’s younger brother Vasso , just a few years older than me sang as well. He taught me to ride a bike with another cousin on the streets of Paris. I was a chubby American kid being harassed by my French cousins, as I wobbled down the street on a rusty bike.

God, they were patient but pretty cruel.

Quite a few years later 1956 or ’57 Vasso the younger brother came to the States with a group of singers,
“The Street Kids”, or something like that, to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. He was a very cool guy.
He came out to Coney Island to visit us; he asked me where he could buy some American Jeans. He wanted to take them back to Paris and sell them, he told me he could sell them for a fortune in Paris and make more than he was being paid for the Sullivan show, with the other three guys.

We went to an Army and Navy store on Mermaid ave. and he bought armloads of jeans, counting the thousands of French Franks in his mind. He and his older brother could adjust them to fit the buyers, remember they were first of all tailors.

He was an Asia Minor entrepreneur after all.

He also asked my sisters where he could buy some fancy brassieres. He was a charming guy and everybody helped him in the stores like crazy, his English left a lot to be desired but my French still sucks.
I am not too sure what he did with the bras and did he make them fit to order or were they for one girl.

I remember him on the show wearing a striped tee shirt and they all wore berets, as they should since they were after all, “The Street Kids” straight from Paris.

I found a site on the Internet that talks about my cousins but more importantly there is a note from my eldest cousin Marco’s daughter, Sophie Marcopoulos. She confirms that Jean was the center of the family and his death was a devastating event for the full family.

 The search continues, thank heavens for the Internet.

There is more family out there.


  1. Well Greg, I remember your sister Fevi had a recording that she brought back from Paris when she went to see her cousins in the early years of Jean's career, he was becoming quite the rising star then, already being groomed for stardom..He could croon, really sing and would have been in my opinion a much better performer than Yves Montand had he lived.

  2. we can order one of his recordings on cd, just found it on the net, amazing