Christopher Michael "Criss" Oliva
* April 3, 1963
+ October 17, 1993


The tragic passing of Criss Oliva was a shock to family, friends and his many fans.
October 17th, Criss and his wife Dawn were driving to Livestock Music festival in Florida when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit Criss head on. Criss was killed instantly, Dawn narrowly surived the crash. Criss' gravesite is located in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Memorial Wall  

Many friends and fans have expressed their feelings on the Criss Oliva Memorial Wall

Moments In Time  


The "Memories of Christopher Michael Oliva" slide shows  

From the personal photo albums of the Oliva family, pictures of Criss , their family, Criss’ wedding and numerous stage shows, including Metropolis and Avatar, have been gathered together. Several slide shows have been created, each with approximately 20 pictures. Over time the slide shows will be changed so that all of the pictures will be able to be shared with the fans.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. & Mrs. Oliva, Dawn Oliva, Christopher John Oliva and his parents, Lori and Tony, for sharing these photographs and for allowing us to have a glimpse into their lives and their special memories of Criss.

Very special thanks to Jo Weber for all his help in creating this slide show. Thank you so much Jo.

Thanks to all the fans who have continued to help keep Criss’ memory alive over the years.

Lastly, this slide show is dedicated to the loving memory of Christopher Michael Oliva, for all the wonderful memories and the incredible music he left us with. Thank you Criss. Your memory will live on in the hearts and minds of Savatage fans around the world.

Thank you all again and I hope you enjoy the slide show.

Slideshow vol. 1
Slideshow vol. 2

Criss Oliva
RockHard - magazine
December 1996
Excerpt from a Savatage special

Nothing characterizes the grade of undervaluation of Criss Oliva more than the fact that he was consistently ignored in life by the leading guitar magazines Guitar World and Guitar Player. Not only did both magizines never do an interview with him - even after his sudden death the editors of both magazines found it unnecessary to deem him worthy as one of the most substantial guitarists of his era.
Criss, grown like his brother without lessons on his instrument, amazed with unusual abilities since his earliest youth. Steve Wacholz remembers that Criss "played every other guitarist with just 14, 15 years literally under the table". At 17, he won with crushing lead a competition in Tampa by playing the Van Halen song "Eruption" live in a furiose manner "that Eddie Van Halen himself's jaw-bones would have fallen down".
In the end, the organizers of the event had nothing left to do except hand him out the announced white Strat. Later it annoyed Criss a lot that just this guitar was stolen after a clubgig in Florida and never appeared again.
Jon: "Criss was an extremely devoted musician. He made something, for what I would blow my brains out: Playing guitar for five, six, eight hours a day. Nearly every day. That was his life. More than everything else. Amazingly he has never cared about music theory. He totally relied on his hearing and on his feeling and was tremendously creatively. For me he was like Mozart. There was something divine about him".
Their personal relationship Jon describes "as more strict. We had a lot of fun together but in last consequence it was a 'small brother/big brother' relationship, how it is between brothers. He had his buddies and I had mine. It wasn't that we stuck together all the time, except if we were working on songs together. Then we were like twins."
Chris Caffery: "His special guitar sound came mainly from his hands. It wasn't very important which Amp he used. The more older and more experienced I get, the more I appreciate what an unbelievably good guitarist he was. He was perfect. He never made any mistakes. And if he slipped off anyway, he turned it into something meaningful and natural, that nobody would have noticed it as a mistake".
Paul O'Neill - and with this opinion he doesn't stand alone - recognized in Criss "the kindest man one can imagine. He treated everybody the way he wanted to be treated. Each time we are in the studio, I keep asking myself this question: What would be Criss' input to improve this or that song, and which songs we would never write, because of the lack of his artistic input?"
If you would like to visit Criss' grave: Curlew Memorial Gardens (Curlew Roughneck) is located in Palm Harbor, a few miles to the north of Clearwater. You can find the memorial stone at the left edge of the asphalt main road approx. 150 meters from the main gate.