Eddie Arvanigian, a native of Worcester and one of the original group of New England Armenian musicians in the 1950’s, passed away recently at the age of 81 in Dearborn, Mich. Services were held at St. Sarkis Church in Dearborn with memorial donations to St. Sarkis and Camp Haiastan.
Ed moved to Detroit in the mid 1950’s and began a 25-year career in contract negotiations at Ford Motor Co. before retiring and taking a position as account manager for his brother George’s Arvco Container Co.
One of five children born to Nevart and and Karekin Arvanigian, he leaves his wife Marge
( Topelian), daughters Keri Guido and Linda Bagdasarian, brother Aram, three grandsons, nieces, nephews, and relatives.
Eddie was predeceased by brother George and sisters Alice and Irene.
The Arvanigians, then and now a prominent family in Worcester, lived on Chandler St. at that time and with the close proximity of Park Ave. and Austin St. reaching to Belmont St., those streets were the hub of Armenians in the proud Armenian community of Worcester.
“Grandma and grandpa’s home was an AYF home,” said nephew Gary Arvanigian, a prominent
Worcester businessman, head of the nationally known Halloween Outlet. “Kids were coming and going all the time and Uncle Ed was the spirit of music and fun and Uncle George was the big brother to the younger AYFers.”
And, many years later there was a parallel.
Jill Tosoian Dolik, a long time friend of Keri and Linda, spoke at Ed’s memorial dinner and mentioned the same thoughts: “Growing up in the AYF, Marge and Eddie Arvanigian’s home belonged to the AYF. We could come and go as family; there was a genuine warmth extended to us all,” Dolik said.
“Ooster” in the ‘50s: Talk about a Little Armenia! “We used to play Armenian music on our porch and the neighbors—Armenian and non Armenian—would love it,” reminisced Eddie Varteresian., whose godmother was Navart Arvanigian.
Varteresian, 73, still an “Ooster” resident, spoke of Ed and the Arvanigian fanily in a caring and revered manner, remembering Ed as a young man who loved his heritage and its music.
“My Uncle Ed was born with Armenian music in his soul,” added Gary.
For those who can remember, the Worcester band called the “Aramites” is considered to be the first Armenian band formed in New England. The likes of Sonny Sisoian and Artie Barsamian bands followed. Eddie did vocals and played his tricolor tambourine, still a prized possession in the family.
It is no coincidence that the members of “Aramites” band were members of the Worcester “Aram” AYF Chapter.
Their first album—“Hot Sands”—was a major success as it was the first album of pure Armenian music.
Band members were the likes of Kap Kaprielian, Eddie Vartanian, Jack Shemligian, Larry Mardirosian, Norair and Mal Soghomian, and vocalist Ed. When a few of the members entered the service, Ed Varteresian, Leo Barsamian, Varti Vartanian and, last but not least, a very young Carnig Mikitarian stepped in.
“The Aramites were the Rolling Stones of the 50’s,” remembers nephew Gary. “They played all over.”
The group not only played all over New England, but in then-faraway places as Chicago and
Hamilton, Ontario. Worcester’s Eden Gardens was a frequent spot as well.
“We played the AYF Olympics in Washington in the late 50’s,” remembers Varteresian. “Eddie did the vocals and played his tri-color tambourine. No one felt our music more than our Eddie,” he added.
And speaking of vocals, the one song identified with Eddie and no other vocalist is “Zungalo.” No one could sing that song like Eddie and there was a reason for that.
“Zungalo was written by my grandmother Nevart, along with the mother of fellow Aramite band
member Norair Soghomonian,” Gary said with a beaming smile.
“Zungalo was a nickname given to a young Armenian boy who loved his music and kef. Who else would sing that but my Uncle Ed? His mom wrote it for him, a self-portrait, if you will.”
“My grandmother and Mrs. Soghomonian loved Armenian music and they created the lyrics for the band to play, for Uncle Ed to play his tricolor tambourine and sing,” Gary said.
“Uncle gave it a lot of soul when he sang Zungalo. After all, his mother co-wrote it,” Gary offered with Arvanigian pride.
Years later, Eddie’s soulful vocals would be heard on Hachig Kazarian albums.
Eddie lived for Armenian music and if there had been a Hall of Fame for kefgees, he would have been a founding member.
Because of its geographic location, Worcester was seen as the hotbed and heart of Armenian activity in New England. The Aramites were a proud product of Worcester.
And, as we smile when we think of Eddie, we should also remember the notable role of the Arvanigian family in Worcester, over many years, generation after generation.
Worcester’s Eddie , Eddie’s Worcester: Chandler Street, a tricolor tambourine, and Zungalo.
Worcester never raised a finer son than Eddie Arvanigian.