Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

Bunnys / Sharp Five
June 24, 2008, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Japan

Bunnys • Flying Guitar

Sharp Five • Golden Guitar

In 1962, The Ventures made the first of what would be many tours of Japan and the Far East. While the shows attracted very little media attention, many had already been exposed to this new reverb-drenched instrumental music through imported records and overseas radio broadcasts, and some of these fans formed their own bands that would become the genesis for a new trend in music. Progenitors of this new sound were tossing out their acoustic guitars in favor of more powerful electric ones, which prompted the name “eleki”, taken from the Japanese for “electric guitar”.

When The Ventures returned back to Japan in 1965, a far different scene awaited them. By this time “eleki” was all the rage. Many established groups had by this time given up playing rockabilly, country, and even jazz to switch over to “eleki”, and high school kids across the nation were rushing out to buy electric guitars and jump on the “eleki” bandwagon, demand for these guitars far outstripping domestic supply for several years running.

In addition to the radio and concerts, there were at least four television programs dedicated exclusively to “eleki” music including Eleki Tournament, Exciting Show, Eleki Tournament Show, and New Eleki Sounds Jumping into the World, and the establishment had begun to cast a wary eye on the “disturbing” trend. This had happened in the past with the rockabilly boom of the 50s, and would happen again with the Group Sounds bands later in the 60s, but regardless of the pressure, “eleki” continued to flourish.

Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi started out as a sideman in Jimmy Tokita & the Mountain Playboys, a country & western band. In 1962, he formed his first eleki band, the Blue Jeans, with whom he remained until 1966. He then formed a new group, the Bunnys, who recorded the eleki classic “Test Driver”. After the Bunnys disbanded in the fall of 1968, Terauchi formed a new version of the Blue Jeans, called Takeshi Terauchi & the Blue Jeans (to distinguish them from the original Blue Jeans, who continued recording and performing after Terauchi’s departure, and even opened for The Beatles at their 1966 Japanese concerts).

Terauchi’s style is very Ventures-influenced, but much faster and more frantic, with a heavy picking style and liberal use of his Mosrite’s whammy bar. Later on, Terauchi experimented with adapting flamenco and other western styles (as well as Japanese musical forms such as enka) to eleki, with mixed results. Terauchi is probably Japan’s first guitar hero, and he has continued recording and touring through the years with new groups of Blue Jeans, and claim to have recorded and released over 300 albums to date.

Where as “Terry” Terauchi is still well known in Japan, and throughout the rest of the world, not many people know about Munetaka Inoue & His Sharp Five. The leader of the band was Munetaka Inoue on drums and percussion, with guitarists Nobuhiro Mine and Hidemasa Yamauchi, bassist Masaaki Ito and Osumu Furuya on organ and keyboards.

The only other information I have been able to find on Munetaka Inoue & His Sharp Five, is an article in Japanese, and the Google translator isn’t much help

As the Sharp Hawks, the band personnel consisted of people from mixed European or American and Japanese lineage. They originally started as a vocal and dance group in ’63, and were four
boys and a girl (who later left the band in ’65). But when the Group Sounds boom happened, they became GS, a vocal beat combo. As the story goes, they couldn’t play well, so the Sharp Five became their backing band.

Thanks to John Sharp for getting this translated for me.

Catalog number SKK 303 on King Records of Japan, released 1967.

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