Born on January 18, 1914, in Kios, Asia Minor, at the age of two he was orphaned by a father, and six years later lived the Asia Minor Disaster. He settled with his mother and grandmother in Samothrace but soon afterwards moved to Piraeus, specifically to Tzitzifies. From a young age he worked as a fisherman, a carpenter, in a car workshop and in construction, and stopped going to school early. It is also noteworthy that in the pre-war years he was a footballer, competing as a goalkeeper for the Falkirk League team.
He first appeared professionally next to Marco Vamvakaris and Stelios Keromitis in 1937. His first song was Faliriotissa, which was released on a disc and had huge success. Followed by a host of others who have his own lyrics, music, or both, including Captain Andreas Zepos, Five Greeks in Hell, Opened, Opened, Modistroula, Celebrating Life, Walking and Sinking, Before Dawn, How the night will pass, turn off the light to sleep, etc.
In general, Papaioannou's songs are characterized by a mix of cantata, balloons and Asian songs. He is considered to be the first, in popular rebetiko song, to use the so-called "treble treble" in his recordings.
Giannis Papaioannou was the first Greek folk composer to travel to America in 1953 to sing to Greek expatriates there. Upon his return, he remained a regular associate of Vassilis Tsitsanis. In his place he was nicknamed Psilos or Patsas.
He was killed on August 3, 1972, at the age of 58, in a car accident in New Perama, driving early in the morning to his country house in Salamis and was buried in the Kallithea cemetery.
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