Aristotle Georgio (right) backstage with Bo Diddley (3rd from left)
Aristotle Georgio (aka Mike Smith) spent the last year of his life hooked up to a feeding tube after being assaulted in the Gaslamp Quarter on July 1st of 2016, when a sucker-punch caused him to fall and hit his head on the sidewalk, resulting in severe head trauma.
“Aristotle has no family here in San Diego and I felt very compelled to try to speak for him and make sure he was being properly cared for,” Beverly Libby told me.
“He came out of the coma after a few months and when I first went to visit him he was in a semi-conscious state,” Libby explained. “He could see, hear, and move a little but was on a feeding tube and could not speak or eat.”
Less than a week after his assailant was sentenced for the assault, Georgio passed away on August 1, 2017. Georgio was well known in Ocean Beach, although many did not know about his impressive musical career.
“I first met Aristotle in probably 1983 or ’84. His blues band the Hurricanes were playing at Le Chalet on Newport Avenue,” his friend Paul Bolton told me. “Aristotle was quite the personality. When I first met him he told me that he used to play with BB King, Bo Diddley, Mick Taylor, the Allman Brothers and a whole bunch of other famous blues bands. Not sure I believed him ’til many years later when he showed me pictures of him with some very famous musicians....
“One thing was for sure Aristotle was very talented,” Bolton continued. "He also became very well known throughout the years at all the O.B. bars and was quite the conversationalist and storyteller. Every local musician and recording studio knew of him. Many had never met him but had heard how hot this guy was on the harmonica. He became quite the popular guy on the East and West Coasts for session work and for tours….
"When I was in our local O.B. Rolling Stones tribute band [Dead Flowers] he was our go-to hired hand. His talent level far exceeded mine.… The road a musician walks down can often be filled with disappointment, despair, addiction, health issues, financial problems etc. Aristotle’s last few years were plagued with many of these same issues. It was very similar to that old blue's song by Albert King titled ‘Born Under a Bad Sign,’ which contained the lyric ‘If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.’...
Aristotle Georgio accompanying Zach Bowes on "Sweet Virginia," 12/11/13
“I’ll choose to remember Aristotle for the bright gifted musician that he was. He was charismatic and loved by everyone that met him. That’s just how he was. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. He could make you smile. He always asked how my son was doing. He genuinely cared. I will always remember that.”
Tim “Spider” Webb, Hurricanes drummer and longtime friend of Georgio, outlined the early years of Georgio’s career.
“Professor Oak & the Hurricanes played around the San Diego area between 1980-1985. We were pretty much the weekend house band at Le Chalet in O.B. We began branching out, playing the Mandolin Wind Wednesdays and Thursdays. Someone at the Belly Up Tavern heard us, and we began opening for almost every traveling national blues act passing through....
“Before coming to San Diego, Ari played with a string of musicians down in the New Orleans area where he mastered that ‘raspy voice’ and phenomenal harmonica style. He was always outgoing, and we dubbed him ‘Sgt. Friendly.’ When we opened for James Brown, Ari was the only guy in the band to get on JB’s bus after our show….
When asked in a 2014 interview about the popularity of jazz and blues, Georgio answered: “Because it’s music, it’s great, so are Beethoven and Hip Hop. Music is psalms, it’s sacred.”
A memorial show establishing a scholarship fund in his name will be held for Aristotle Georgio September 17 at Winstons in O.B.