A Greek workshop in Australia that creates handmade guitars made of olive tree wood from Mount Olympus has become a popular destination for some of the biggest rock stars in the world.
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, five-time Grammy winner bassist Victor Wooten, Journey, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and Dream Theater producer Kevin Shirley are only some of the fans of the olive wood-made instruments from Greece.
The Olympus Guitars brand was founded and created ten years ago by Giannis Giantsios, known professionally as Johnny Prappas, who grew up in Leptokarya of Pieria, at the roots of Mount Olympus.
“This imposing and glorious mountain of Olympus has been a big part of my life since childhood. I would open my window every morning and stare at the mountain. I used to play there with my friends, I used to sing and run around it. I have spent half of my life there,” says Johnny Prappas.
Johnny's choice to name his guitar company after the legendary mountain was a deeply personal decision.
“When it was time to choose a name for my guitar brand, the name Olympus came immediately to mind. There was simply no other option for me; it wasn’t even a question,” Johnny said.
Olympus guitars are made out of olive wood
Although spruce, mahogany and rosewood are most commonly used worldwide for guitar tops, Johnny explained the reasons behind his choice of olive tree wood.
“The olive wood is the proudest material Greece can provide in terms of timber. It has a vibrant history and a sacred meaning.
"Let us not forget that olive tree branches were given to champions and top athletes in Ancient Greece at the Olympic Games, and today this type of wood can be used for all sorts of constructions.”
When Olympus Guitars started designing and manufacturing guitars in 2008 in Greece, it was the only workshop in the world that made guitars from olive wood, starting a new trend that was later adopted by other international workshops.
“Today, I have seen other workshops around the world using olive wood for various parts of musical instruments, and I can see that slowly, olive wood is becoming a popular material in the music world,” Johnny said.
“Olive wood is hard and dense, and it can have a beautiful and unique wood grain, but it also offers a great acoustic tone,” he added.
For its creations, Olympus Guitars imports olive wood exclusively from Mount Olympus, which is cut and shipped to Australia, where the workshop is now located.
Johnny’s most significant markets have always been the US and Australia. When he saw the opportunity to move his business abroad, he decided to migrate to Sydney with his family and start from the beginning.
“We started our business in Greece but decided to move to Australia two years ago to reach new audiences.”
Olympus Guitars initially created guitars exclusively for professional artists and only by request.
“My dream was, at first, to make guitars for big rock stars. It was a crazy goal, but that’s how it started,” Johnny explains.
“But my mentor, the person who taught me how to cut the wood and shape it to create guitars, told me that you need to show your art to the world and you need to share your talent with others.”
“When I moved to Australia with my family, I immediately felt that my talent and my skills were well respected by the people around me. People showed interest in what I was making and so I decided to open my store to the public and take requests from everyone,” he says.
Johnny regularly invites schools, universities and students of all ages to visit his workshop and see firsthand how he makes his Olympus Guitars from scratch and the various stages in the creation process of a musical instrument.
“The best way for me to give my art to the world is through education; hopefully, this way, I will inspire more people.”
However, he still creates unique guitars daily, along with his team of carpenters, industrial designers and musicians.
“Of course, now all live shows and music events have been cancelled because of COVID-19, but we are still making top-quality guitars for our dedicated customers for their studio recordings. Nowadays, music is mostly consumed digitally, so instruments must have the best acoustic capabilities.”
American blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales (also known as Raw Dawg), who his musician peers have voted as the best guitarist in the world for many consecutive years, is a frequent buyer of Olympus Guitars, as well as the well-known Greek-Australian guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, who has used the Greece-made guitars for her concerts and tours.
“I consider Orianthi a good friend of mine, and I am honoured that she has trusted us for the creation of her guitars,” Johnny said.
The Greek guitar maker also revealed that his imagination for his creations never stops, and the more requests he receives from legendary musicians, the more he feels motivated to create great things.
“Alice Cooper is among the top guitarists who have shown a preference for Olympus Guitars, and we are currently creating two guitars for him, which is amazing,” he revealed.
Johnny stated that his biggest goal is to continue educating the world through his art about Greece and Greece’s impact on global music.
Johnny says that the inspiration to call his guitar brand after the residence of the Gods of Ancient Greece goes beyond the name, and he intends to pay respect to the significance of the mountain to Greek culture and to transmit its history through his work.
📷: All photos from Instagram: @olympusguitars
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