06. From Covers to Originals: “Rockabilly” in 1956-1963

TERUMASA SHIMIZU


 

1. Fragmentary shots of a Nichigeki Western Carnival and a jazz kissa in 1958

From: Nichigeki Western Carnival. Documentary program, NHK-TV, December 18, 2010.

 

Masa’aki Hirao, Mickey Curtis and Keijirō Yamashita are featured as vocalists and guitarists.

 

 

Many impressive glimpses of the Western Carnival and a jazz kissa in 1958 are given.


 

 2. Kazuya Kosaka, “Heartbreak Hotel”

 From: Kazuya Kosaka, “Heartbreak Hotel” / Teruo Hata, “Sōsakusha-no Uta” (The theme song from The Searchers). Nippon Columbia JL-177, 1956, 78 rpm.

Kazuya Kosaka: vocals; Wagon Masters: backing band.

 

Lyrics

 

This first cover of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” in Japan (1956), arranged by Raymond Hattori, became a big hit in Japan, and prompted country & western bands to convert to rockabilly bands. Kosaka sang it in the seventh Kōhaku Uta-gassen (The Red and White Song Contest) on the 1957 New Year’s Eve.


 

3. Masa’aki Hirao, “Hoshi-wa Nandemo Shitte’iru” (Stars Know Everything)

 From: “Hoshi-wa Nandemo Shitte’iru” / “Rock Yūyake Koyake”. King Records, C-1617 (K944), 1958, 78 rpm (45 rpm).

 

Masa’aki Hirao: vocals; All Stars Wagon: backing band.

 

Lyrics

 

Being one of the earliest original songs sung by a Japanese “rockabilly” artist (lyrics byTetsu Mizushima; music by Hiroshi Tsutsumi), this single was very successful.


 

4. Hiroshi Mizuhara, “Kuroi Hanabira”

From: “Kuroi Hanabira” (Black Petals) / “Seishun-o Kakero” (Stake Your Youth). Toshiba JP-1070, 1959, 45 rpm.

 

Hiroshi Mizuhara: lead vocals; Hidehiko Matsumoto: tenor saxophone; Toshiba studio orchestra: backing orchestra; vocal-music students at the Tokyo College of the Arts: harmony vocals.

 

Lyrics

 

This first single by Hiroshi Mizuhara released in July 1959 won the first Japan Record Award in 1959.


 

5. Kyū Sakamoto, “Ue-o Muite Arukō”

From: “Ue-o Muite Arukō” (I Look Up When I Walk) / “Anoko-no Namae-wa Nanten-kana” (What Is Her Name, I Wonder). Toshiba JP-5083, 1961, 45 rpm.

 

Kyū Sakamoto: lead vocals; Toshiba studio orchestra: backing orchestra.

 

Lyrics

Discogs

 

This song topped the Billboard charts in 1963. A lot of international cover versions appeared, including those by Taste of Honey (1981) and 4PM (1995).