Glory Days: Tommy Bayiokos' Journey from Grief to Growth

Glory Days: Tommy Bayiokos Journeys from Grief to Growth

In the wake of his relationship with Grammy nominated and iconic 80's singer and songwriter Laura Branigan, Greek American actor and musician Tommy Bayiokos opens up about his multifaceted career, heartfelt reflections, and enduring passion for music and performance.

Tommy Bayiokos is not your average artist. He’s a man of many talents — an actor, model, drummer, and percussionist — with a remarkable journey that intertwines with iconic figures and significant moments in music and film history.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Athanasios Bayiokos to Panagiotis, from the village of Anavriti in Sparti and Eleftheria Bayiokos from the village of Githeo from Mani, Tommy's roots in entertainment run deep. His mother, was a former ‘Miss Greek Independence’ beauty queen, exuded elegance and grace. For decades, his father owned the renowned Sugar Bowl restaurant, a staple across the street from Brooklyn College.

Bayiokos proudly tells Greek City Times, “My late mom Eleftheria was a beauty queen - Miss Greek Independence in NY 1957 - and I miss her dearly.

“When I perform whether on drums or acting on stage and film, I feel her presence.

“My late father Panagiotis had a restaurant by my alma mater Brooklyn College and my love for Greek food has never left me as he was the best! Love Pastisio!”

Bayiokos’s roots in entertainment run deep. “I come from a musical family,” he says. “My cousin Cynthia Bayiokos is a classical percussionist with the Athenian Symphonic Orchestra and played with virtually every name Greek artist, from Thithoraki to Yiannis Parios - and even George Dalaras.”

“I visited Cynthia just a few years ago.  I was a guest backstage for the prova (soundcheck) and chatted with George a bit,” he added.

Bayiokos's journey into the world of entertainment began early. He honed his craft at Brooklyn College, where he was not only a dedicated student but also a member of the Brooklyn College Conservatory Jazz Ensemble. His passion for music led him to the Drummers Collective School of Music in Manhattan, where he spent eight years refining his skills.

His musical prowess led him to remarkable opportunities, including being a part of Grammy-nominated songstress and songwriter Laura Branigan’s band.  An 80’s icon, Branigan is famous for her hits such as the platinum-certified 1982 single "Gloria", which stayed on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks.

Branigan's other singles included the Top 10 hit ‘Solitaire’ (1983), the US chart number one ‘How Am I Supposed to Live Without You’ (1983), the Australian No. 2 hit ‘Ti Amo’ (1984), and her return to the top 40 with her cover of ‘The Power of Love’ (1987). She also contributed songs to motion picture and television soundtracks, including the Grammy and Academy Award-winning Flashdance soundtrack (1983), and the Ghostbusters soundtrack (1984).

“I was first introduced to Laura’s music in 1998 through my college pal Matt Kaslow who later became her music director. I first met Laura in late 2001 at Molyvos restaurant New York City where I used to work. A day that changed my life forever,” says Bayiokos.

Bayiokos and Branigan dated for eight months until she died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm in her sleep at her home in East Quogue in August of 2004 at the age of 52.

“It’s unfathomable that we are approaching the 20 year anniversary of the passing of my late bandleader and girlfriend,” says Bayiokos, explaining that he was Branigan’s boyfriend at the time of her passing and, sadly, a pallbearer at her funeral.

Reflecting on his time with Branigan, Bayiokos reminisces, “My times with her in our private lives dating and being in her band those years stands as my forever greatest moments and life gig. She changed my life forever and since then, I’m a better man today for it.”

“It took me years to heal and see clearly again, to make sense of it all and to open my heart again as she would have wanted,” says Bayiokos. when asked whether he has yet managed to find love again.

“Love has no expiration date, as we move forward with honour. I have been dating these years and what will be will be”

But Bayiokos's talents, however, extend far beyond music. His acting career has seen him grace both the small and big screens, with notable roles in TV shows like 'Blue Bloods' and 'Madoff', as well as films like 'The Taking of Pelham 123' and 'The Amazing Floydini'. His Broadway and theatre credits further speak to his versatility and depth as an actor.

“I am currently working on a film, J’ailhouse Theraoist’ directed by Malcolm Boyd and my character as Captain Browning has 2 more scenes - shooting upcoming end of June,” says the multi-faceted Bayiokos.

“I’m also currently playing the reserved but dangerous ‘Lenny’ in the upcoming ‘One Way In No Way Out’, winner of four film festivals and the adapted screenplay from book author Malcolm Boyd. With three episodes completed, the shooting episode 4 is also scheduled for late June. All four episodes will stream once completed so the cast ensemble are just thrilled!

“In addition, I’m cast in an upcoming film ‘Ordinary Heroes’, written and produced by Chaise Cortes De Vargas,” Bayiokos confides. “We start our table reads next week – and it will surely be a potent and award-winning film. I can’t comment further per NDA but watch this space!”

It’s all happening for Bayiokos.

“I have an upcoming gig on drums at an outdoor show on in July in New Jersey with band Esteem Allstars on drums, Jack Goodman band leader. I’ve performed with them for years In between film and TV.”

In recent years, Bayiokos has been actively involved in advocating for fellow artists as a proud member of SAG-AFTRA. He stood in solidarity with colleagues during the SAG-AFTRA strike, emphasising the importance of unity and collective action in the industry.

“I was out there on picket lines daily and even brought my snare drum to rivet with other fine percussionist. For me, it was the best thing that ever happened, - a time to regroup and reconnect with so many in the biz, especially from my Laura Branigan years,” reflects Bayiokos.

The upcoming 20th anniversary of his late love Laura Branigan’s passing serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact she had on his life. Yet, amidst the sorrow, Bayiokos remains hopeful for a biopic that will immortalise their love story and legacy.

“Fans all over the world will be rejoicing in remembrance,” says Bayiokos. who says that Branigans songs are now being listened to a new generation of music enthusiasts.

“I’ve carried myself with honour all these years, miss her and I’m optimistic that a screenplay biopic will happen. I’ve been writing these years too so hope to finally finish a love story that will be forever young and remembered, based on true events.”

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Bayiokos cherishes his Greek heritage, which has deeply influenced his artistry. His recent visit to Greece, where he connected with renowned artists and immersed himself in the vibrant music scene, reaffirmed the significance of his roots.

Reflecting on his experience, Bayiokos speaks specifically about the transformative impact of his visit to Meteora, the remarkable rock formation located in the regional unit of Trikala, Thessaly, in northwestern Greece. Hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second only to Mount Athos, Meteora left an great impression on Bayiokos. “Meteora changed my life and truly feels like a special oasis,” he muses.

Preparing to embark on the next chapter of his journey, one thing remains certain: Tommy Bayiokos plans to continue along his path as he began it - with determination and a commitment to excellence in all his pursuits.

In Bayiokos’s own words, “Just be yourself.” It’s a simple mantra that encapsulates his approach to life and artistry — authentic, uncompromising, and filled with boundless passion.

Read also: The Alchemist: Iordanes Spyridon Gogos at AFW ‘24

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