Jimmy Coletsis, 100 per cent rock n roller
He was influenced by the likes of Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker and the British blues explosion of the 1960s
21 June, 2021 — By Dan Carrier
PLAYING the blues – and having a good time while doing it – was guitarist Jimmy Coletsis’ calling card.
The virtuoso, who has died aged 61, became a much-loved proponent of the British blues sound as he played venues all around the world.
Heralding from Vancouver in Canada, Jimmy – born in 1960 as Dimitrios Koletsis – came from a family of musicians and artists. In his teenage years he performed with friends at his school, inspired by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.
He used homemade amplifiers and borrowed guitars, and soon became good enough to play the gig circuit in a number of bands.
He was part of rock outfit Thor, whose original members reformed in 2017 when they were invited back to a Canadian music festival they had played at in 1976.
But after some time working in Japan, Jimmy had moved to London in 1997, having met up with his school friend and singer Steve Braithwaite.
They formed a band, The Lazy Hopefuls, and Jimmy established himself playing guitar in Camden Town pubs, Upper Street’s King’s Head Theatre, Angel’s Round Midnight, and enjoying a residency at the West End blues venue, Ain’t Nothing But The… in Oxford Circus.
Influenced by the likes of Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker and the British blues explosion of the 1960s, he decided to develop in the genre, partly as he felt it was a style that would give him longevity as a performer.
He felt playing rock or metal as an older man wasn’t what he wanted to do.
He was feted internationally, playing nine Russian tours, including headline performances in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
His reputation is such that blues fans have organised a tribute concert in Moscow next month. Jimmy’s approach to leading a band wasn’t about being a frontman, though his on-stage presence was electric.
Instead, he saw his job as getting the very best out of those around him by supporting them and stepping back.
The Blues Dragons, who he performed with, were always welcoming to anyone who wanted to get up on the stage and jam. Jimmy didn’t like setlists and preferred to see where the vibe went – he said that performances were partly rehearsals, too, as they were places to practise and learn.
It helped that he also believed it was at rehearsals where bands would bicker. His prolific life on stage meant his diary had an astonishing 200 gigs a year for the last five years of his life. He had an unsaid rule of never cancelling – even after he fell ill with cancer.
And the pandemic couldn’t stop him: when gigs were being cancelled, he and other musicians began to host free outdoor “Blues Picnics” in Crouch End.
It was while playing a gig at a pub in Tottenham in 2006 that he met Aga Sleczka. The pair fell in love and were married five years ago.
Aga said: “Music was not his occupation, activity [or] hobby – he was living as a musician and it’s a big difference. “He was 100 per cent rock’n’roller in all aspects of his life.” Jimmy loved cooking – and eating – good food, everything from Greek dishes through to fusion.
He would visit the island of Samos in Greece, where he had relatives and had planned this summer to record a new album there.
He leaves his father, three siblings, Aga, a daughter and a son. dan carrier