The Sticky Fingers neon sign is brightly lit, indicating there’s a loud party happening down below. PHOTO: (Courtesy of Costa Iraclides)
Many of my friends on both sides of the Atlantic are puzzled when I tell them: “I don’t go to Greece to listen to Greek music, that’s where I get away from Greek music. When I’m there, I listen to classic rock.” Confusing, indeed. Here’s the back story.
I live in Tarpon Springs, FL, AKA ‘America’s Greek island’. I live walking distance to about a dozen Greek restaurants and coffee shops. I hear Greek music all around me all the time.
Ok, that explains the first part, but why classic rock in Greece? Because having been a classic rock fan since my teens, and having gone to rock clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, the best live rock music from a club band that I’ve ever heard is at a place called Sticky Fingers, on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes, whose owner, Costa Iraclides, had dubbed ‘the temple of rock’.
Founded in 1979 by Iraclides and his brother Manoli, Sticky Fingers celebrates its 45th anniversary next year. The other two founders were Eduardo Alboreto and Jimmy Zafirakis, Iraclides told TNH. “Eduardo taught me how to play guitar in 1968. I was walking along the main beach and heard someone playing. He was in the middle of a circle of people. I joined them then asked him to teach me. After that summer I begged my parents to buy me a guitar (they did), which I still have.”
Iraclides added that he caught Zafirakis’ eye at the old Rhodes airport in 1977 “because I was carrying two guitars after landing. He told me he was opening a bar and needed someone to play.”
Alboreto left shortly after the founding, and Zafirakis in 1998, leaving the Iraclideses exclusively in command.
Throughout the 80s and part of the 90s, the brothers and the club’s local band – which has featured numerous extremely talented musicians over the years – played seven nights per week, often to standing-room-only capacity crowds.
In fact, many celebrities graced Sticky with their presence, including an array of musicians, from Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright to Europe’s Bobby Harrison, and iconic actors Ben Kingsley and Telly Savalas.
Much like the Rolling Stones (the club’s name comes from a Stones album), Deep Purple, The Who, The Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and dozens of other classic rock bands from the 60s and 70s, who’ve seen countless other bands come and go in that time span but who themselves are still together and touring, Sticky Fingers continues to thrive even as newer venues on the island opened then closed.
As classic rock eventually gave way to a new generation of music fans who turned to different genres, Sticky stayed true to its Saturday night show but opened only sporadically the rest of the week.
During the height of the pandemic, all but a few spots on planet earth shut down, but Iraclides took his show on the road – virtually, that is. Each Sunday he performed ‘Costa Unplugged’, featuring a plethora of classic rock hits he’d sing while playing guitar, and live streamed it to his fans worldwide. Many of them – me included – tuned in every Sunday for the better part of two years. His unplugged show was one he’s been taking on the literal road, all over Rhodes, for many years now, ever since Sticky ceased featuring live music seven nights a week.
But beginning last summer and continuing into the present, Manoli decided to step back from Sticky and Iraclides is running it solo now, and the club is once again open every night of the week.
As I reflect on all the years I’ve gone to Sticky, I’m reminded of my second year there, in 1988, four years after the first. That was pre-Internet, so I couldn’t even check ahead of time to see if the place was still there. It’s only a block behind the sprawling Blue Sky Hotel, but you have to know which block (the address is Anthoula Zervou 6, if you’re in the neighborhood).
As I walked through the streets – it was a little after midnight, that’s when they let it all hang out, as Eric Clapton might say – I saw nothing but darkness. ‘Alas!’ I thought, ‘Sticky is no more!’
How happy I was when I turned down a different block, Zervou, and saw Sticky’s guitar-shaped neon sign and knew I’d gone ‘home’.
“You’re still here! I couldn’t find you and was worried you had closed,” I told Costa.
He replied, “we figure if the Rolling Stones are still playing, so will we.”
And the Stones are still going – 61 years and counting! Thankfully, so is Sticky Fingers.
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