Q&A with Greek radio host Dimitris Delis (aka Jim Dylan) - Honky Tonk Lagoon with Folk, Rock, Blues and beyond

"Folk music was the main music genre that got involved with social and political issues. Regarding the racial issue let us not forget that folk was a kind of music very close to the blues, therefore many folk songs had references to the lives and problems of black people. A lot of people in white audiences learned the blues from folk artists."

Dimitris Delis: Honky Tonk Lagoon

Dimitris Delis (aka Jim Dylan) is a Greek radio host on Metadeftero internet radio station. Dimitris says: "I was born in 1985 in Tripolis, a small town in Peloponnese, Greece. I studied and have a degree in Environmental Science, but I never worked as environmentalist despite the various jobs that I have changed. I live and work in Athens. I love folk and rock music from the sixties and seventies, with a fancy for the Greenwich Village Folk Scene and Psychedelic Folk around the world. My hobbies are searching for unknown albums of my favorite music, collect records and CDs and searching for Bob Dylan bootlegs and cover songs from Sixties bands. I made my first steps in radio as a child and since 2015 I host the Honky Tonk Lagoon radio show, first on "Music Society" and for the last two years on "Metadeftero" internet radio station."

(Photo: Dimitris Delis)

Dimitris talks about his radio show, Bob Dylan, Folk music, Greenwich Village of New York, Dave Van Ronk, Martin Luther King, the Blues, Beat literature, and many more.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Folk and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

When the biggest part of your life is dedicated to music, with no doubt music will shape at a large extent the way you view the world and perceive things. As far as the part of music, Folk (and Rock of course) has taught me that music is Art, music is a historical monument, and not a piece of entertainment ,and only as Art must it be perceived. Folk music taught me to look behind the obvious, to search for the roots of everything, to find where melodies and lyrics come from, and learn their history. For example, it is magnificent to find out that one of the most beautiful Christmas songs, Gaudete by Steeleye Span is based on a Christmas carol of the 16th century. In Folk music there are hundreds of such examples.

Personally, music gave me as a child the opportunity to discover literature, and have a first contact with a lot of my favorite writers. I discovered Poe from Alan Parsons Project, I discovered Allen Ginsberg and the beat generation from Bob Dylan, I discovered JRR Tolkien from Led Zeppelin, psychedelic bands taught me H.P Lovecraft, Aldous Huxley, Lewis Carroll and so many other examples. Folk and Rock music of the sixties teaches you history too. Music forced me to read about all the historic social and political facts that were taking place back then. Vietnam, the Cold War, the Hippies, the Black Panthers, May 68, Martin Luther King etc...

Above all, Folk and Rock music, as progressive and radical movements, help you to cultivate and shape your views on society, ideologies and politics and learn concepts such as freedom, justice, equality and of course to think as a free man, with no leaders, guiders and gurus above your head…’’To keep it in your mind and not forget that it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to.’’

How started the thought of "Honky Tonk Lagoon"? What is the hardest part to be a radio hoster in Greece?

As a teenager I was listening to a local radio show in Tripolis, Delicious Vinilius, I started to hang around there and he gave me the opportunity to start doing my own radio show. Later on, I was involved for a while in the radio station of the university as a student. When I came to live in Athens, back in 2015, I started my involvement with the internet radio. The Honky Tonk Lagoon radio show started in 2015 in "Music Society" and for the last two years has been hosted by "Metadeftero", a cooperative radio station based in Athens, created in 2013.

There are two completely different types of radio in Greece nowadays. The FM radio stations and the internet radio stations. FM radio stations, with very few exceptions is a dead thing… They ‘re playing only according to lists, lists full of hits, nothing underground, nothing unknown, nothing experimental... only mainstream music and songs you have listened a million times in your life. On the other hand, there are hundreds of internet stations, here and everywhere… Radio stations made with a lot of love for music and a lot of amateur radio producers with great knowledge of music and a strong will power to give this knowledge to their audience. Of course, these people do radio shows for their own pleasure, there is no money in this, no advertisements, no promotion. If you’re doing radio because of your love for music, it’s a big pleasure. If you want to make money, then  you’d better do something else.

"Above all, Folk and Rock music, as progressive and radical movements, help you to cultivate and shape your views on society, ideologies and politics and learn concepts such as freedom, justice, equality and of course to think as a free man, with no leaders, guiders and gurus above your head…’’To keep it in your mind and not forget that it is not he or she or them or it that you belong to.’’" (Photo: Dimitris Delis)

What characterize your radio show's music philosophy and mission? How do you want it to affect people?

Honky Tonk Lagoon is a radio show that is based mostly on folk and psychedelic rock music from the 60’s and 70’s. Every show has a theme, tributes to genres, artists, movements, countries, independent labels, eras etc… Of course there is not only folk and psychedelia, one can listen to prog, blues, country, selections from the Greek scene and new releases, too.

I would be very happy if someone listening to my radio shows likes a song that is played and this moves him to start searching and discover on his own this music paradise of the sixties and seventies. Even if it is only one person, the mission will have been accomplished. Of course, the main reason to do a radio show is your own pleasure. You enter the process of searching and listening to new things all the time...As an example, you like Aguaturbia and Kissing Spell, so you decide to make a tribute show about Chilean 60’s psychedelic rock scene. You start searching for Chilean bands and albums and as a result you discover so many more things you didn’t knew about. Beyond the 60s and 70s, every year Honky Tonk Lagoon has two radio shows with the best albums of the year. I’m doing it for myself, it motivates me to listen to new stuff and stay in contact with the new music releases.

Who are some of your very favorite artists and albums or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you?

There are so many, I will try to name a few...Of course number one is Bob Dylan, from the folk genre I can say for sure Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, Carolyn Hester, Odetta, The New Lost City Ramblers, Shirley Collins, Buffy Sainte Marie, Joan Baez, June Tabor, Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel...Dubliners, Planxty, The Clancy Brothers from the Irish...Bands  like Fairport Convention and The Pentagle. I love guitarists such as John Fahey, Sandy Bull and Robbie Basho...From the psychedelic folk genre my favorite bands are the Incredible String Band, Comus, Spirogyra, Steeleye Span, Trees, Mellow Candle, Dr Strangely Strange, Pearls Before Swine, Trader Horne. HP Lovercraft, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Kaleidoscope (US), Beacon Street Union and Earth Opera from the psychedelic era, Amon Duul II, Can, Agitation Free and Ash Ra Tempel from Kraut… I love The Band, Gram Parsons, Lou Reed and The Velvets, The Faces, and of course The Grateful Dead, the greatest band of all times! There are of course artists that have inspired me from the blues and country music. Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, Leadbelly, Big Joe Williams, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

"Early 60’s in Greenwich Village of New York of course! At first, a visit to the Folklore Center of Izzy Young, a focal point for the American Folk scene, and then to Washington square and the famous folk clubs of Bleecker and MacDougal street. Gaslight, Gerdes, Kettle of Fish, Cafe Wha? And many others...You had the opportunity within a short distance to see some of your favorite artists performing. In just two streets you could see Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Karen Dalton, Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, Patrick Sky, Mark Spoelstra and so many others…" (Bob Dylan / Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty)

Why do you think that the Bob Dylan music and songs continues to generate such a devoted following?

There is Bob Dylan the musician, Bob Dylan the singer, Bob Dylan the songwriter and Bob Dylan the man. For me, first of all Bob Dylan is a musician. Bob Dylan in the sixties made a lot of important musical innovations. He was a pioneer of many notable changes in the American music, rock or folk or country...He cannot be compared to artists such as Leonard Cohen for example, as much as I love him, he didn’t contribute something new or different to music. Dylan not only writes amazing lyrics but great melodies, too. As he once said, if only my lyrics are worth, then why so many jazz bands release albums with instrumental covers of my songs?

Then there is Bob Dylan the singer. This is very subjective. Each one likes different voices. I find his voice magnificent, especially in the last years that time has left its impress on him, but I repeat this is subjective...Then there is Bob Dylan the lyricist. I don’t have to say something about that. You just have to read his lyrics. ’’Created new poetic expression within the great American song tradition’’ was the reason they gave him the Nobel prize. At least, there is Bob Dylan the man. A man who walked on his own personal way since being a kid, not interested in following nobody and most important, not interested in being followed. A man with a great egoism and self confidence that led him release masterpieces until the eighth decade of his life...I think a summary of the above is maybe the answer to this question.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Firstly, I believe that nowadays some really good stuff is out there, just not at the frequency that were made in the sixties. It is normal, things have changed, the world isn’t the same, rock and folk are just music nowadays, they are far from a kind of movement or something similar. To be honest, I think that a "best of albums’" of the last decade equals to a "best of" of the first week of April 1967 or something. I think that’s missing. The easiness in which masterpieces were made then. Back then, each artist created his own stuff, something new. Even in folk music, which is traditional music, bands took this music to another dimension. Now, I mostly see bands that simply copy what was being played back then, very few bands have their own identity, I am referring to underground stuff, mainstream rock is dead years ago. My fear is that things will stay like this or maybe get worse, unless a sort of a comet arises, like The Beatles in the sixties, but I don’t know how realistic this is.                      (Photo: Dimitris Delis)

"When the biggest part of your life is dedicated to music, with no doubt music will shape at a large extent the way you view the world and perceive things. As far as the part of music, Folk (and Rock of course) has taught me that music is Art, music is a historical monument, and not a piece of entertainment ,and only as Art must it be perceived .Folk music taught me to look behind the obvious, to search for the roots of everything, to find where melodies and lyrics come from, and learn their history."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I would change the people who are in charge of the music industry. I would replace them with people who know about music, who are interested in making art and not making money. One can observe that the most interesting stuff nowadays comes from bands who upload their music on Bandcamp or from small independent record labels. Almost nothing is worth in the big and famous record labels, except for the old artists who still make records and their labels can’t touch them, because of their history, their glory, and their standard success.

What is the impact of Folk/Roots music on the racial, political, spiritual and socio-cultural implications?

Folk music was the main music genre that got involved with social and political issues. Regarding the racial issue let us not forget that folk was a kind of music very close to the blues, therefore many folk songs had references to the lives and problems of black people. A lot of people in white audiences learned the blues from folk artists. Blues singers reappeared after decades in folk festivals and clubs. Many folk singers in the sixties were supporters of Martin Luther King, Don’t forget the March in Washington in 1963 and the famous speech of Martin Luther King. The musicians that performed then were folk musicians; Odetta, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary.

Folk music and the folk singers were chased like no other music style due to their open minded and left views. Don’t forget the trials during the McCarthyism period, as well as the elimination of the folk chart and its integration in the country chart, trying to make folk music disappear.

During the sixties, folk music was the voice of all the protest movements. Protest songs appeared then, songs about justice, equality, minorities, against violence and of course against the war. Hundreds of songs were written for the war in Vietnam, while most of the folk singers were present and at the forefront of the anti-war demonstrations and marches. Folk music was dangerous for the government and the law, it wasn’t an innocent revolution like Elvis. The 500 pages of Phil Ochs’s files in FBI archives can prove this.

"I would change the people who are in charge of the music industry. I would replace them with people who know about music, who are interested in making art and not making money. One can observe that the most interesting stuff nowadays comes from bands who upload their music on Bandcamp  or from small independent record labels." (Photo: The Gaslight was located at 116 MacDougal Str, NYC)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Early 60’s in Greenwich Village of New York of course! At first, a visit to the Folklore Center of Izzy Young, a focal point for the American Folk scene, and then to Washington square and the famous folk clubs of Bleecker and MacDougal street. Gaslight, Gerdes, Kettle of Fish, Cafe Wha? And many others...You had the opportunity within a short distance to see some of your favorite artists performing. In just two streets you could see Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Karen Dalton, Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, Patrick Sky, Mark Spoelstra and so many others…

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