Shoji Tabuchi

Classically trained Japanese violinist who became the most unlikely of Nashville singer-songwriters in the 1970s.
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Artist Biography

b. 1946, Daishoji, Ishikawa, Japan. Trained as a classical violinist, Tabuchi heard Roy Acuff in concert and was inspired to change to a different musical form. At the age of 18 he formed his own band, the Bluegrass Ramblers, and became successful. His ambition, though, was for eminence in America and in 1967, with a few hundred dollars and his violin, he arrived in San Francisco. He soon displayed surprising ability as a performer of American country music and allied this to remarkable entrepreneurial skills. From 1970-75 he was the opening act for David Houston. Playing for audiences around the country, Tabuchi built a following and if many came out of curiosity, a substantial percentage were mightily impressed by his technical skill and his unbridled and infectious enthusiasm. Eventually invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, he appeared to have reached a peak many native-born American musicians would have settled for.

Tabuchi, however, wanted more. The next step was prompted by his success at shows performed in Branson, Missouri. Capitalizing on this, he raised the money for his own venue, the Shoji Tabuchi Theater, which was upon completion one of the most lavish in a town already noted for its high-gloss standards. By the early 00s, Tabuchi’s show at his own theatre was a must-see on the list of very nearly everyone visiting country music’s second capital. With 2, 000 paying customers per show, and all-year round tourism, this converts to a turnover of some $14 million a year. The shows Tabuchi headlines are not only country music. Staged by his wife, Dorothy, they are remarkable spectacles that dizzyingly combine contemporary country music with traditional Japanese theatre. His repertoire draws upon both forms and also includes pop and show tunes, all delivered with an emphasis on giving his audience a memorable experience. If this is sometimes at the expense of depth in interpretations, the glitter and pizzazz make more than adequate compensation.

In the early 00s, the extent to which Tabuchi had become a part of the fabric of his adopted country was demonstrated when he was awarded the Americanism Award and was nominated for the National Award by the Daughters of the American Republic.