An American style of music hit all the right chords for Shoji Tabuchi growing up in his country.
Tabuchi, a fiddler from Japan whose family theater has been a fixture for a quarter-century in Branson, Mo., will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Alabama Theatre, in Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach.
Speaking last week by phone from the Show Me State during a break in between shows, Tabuchi said he began violin lessons with the Suzuki method at age 7, and later in college, met the late Roy Acuff backstage at a concert in Osaka, Japan.
“I saw a billboard and went out of curiosity,” Tabuchi said, referring to the host repeatedly as “Mr. Acuff.”
Hearing his band play “Listen to the Mockingbird,” Tabuchi said, “that song knocked me out,” prompting him to move his bow in a country direction.
“I just started buying all kinds of records, tapes and music from the United States,” he said.
Arriving as an immigrant, Tabuchi said, “I had a little bit of a hard time convincing people I played country music.”
Grand Ole Opry entry
Another door opened upon seeing Acuff again, who invited Tabuchi to play the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. With regular work playing nightclubs in Kansas leading to national networking in the Music City, Tabuchi said this led to his own discovery of “truly, a pure example of the American dream” made.
Touring globally with other acts, then spending seven years playing in Branson for two theaters, he settled down to open his own venue. That didn’t quash his “urge to go out and explore the world” some more, though. That extends to this weekend and his first performance in the Myrtle Beach area, after coming as close as Charleston through the years.
Bob Wood, president of the Alabama Theatre, called this guest concert “different from our other concerts.”
“Since Shoji has been the top show and entertainer in Branson for years,” Wood said, “we thought folks would like to see him in this market without having to travel to Branson.”
Tabuchi said he’s played in Myrtle Beach, but only for his hobby of golf, and that included seeing “a big alligator” at one course.
Taking his concert on tour for about a dozen outings a year, with a variety of music – and instrumentation – besides country, Tabuchi said he can’t bring the whole crew.
“Our tour bus seats only 15,” he said, “but we’re bringing the core. We’re doing the main ingredients of our show.”
This road version also includes special effects and “great costumes,” with a band and backup singers.
Father and son
More than once in this interview, Tabuchi said he felt “very blessed” from his career, which has included “my thrill” of performing in June 2006 in the White House’s East Room when President George W. Bush welcomed a fellow country music fan, Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister of Japan at the time. Tabuchi also brought up playing for another “big country fan,” George H.W. Bush, during his term in the Oval Office, “after a fishing tournament.”
Tabuchi said the country genre “never got big” in his homeland, but it still scored with “hardcore country music fans,” especially through bluegrass. He said he also has seen them in the British Isles and through touring with the late Boxcar Willie.
“All the people in Europe,” Tabuchi said, “they love all the ingredients.”
He has observed how country music changes with time, whether in a rock or popular flair.
“You have to do some hip country,” Tabuchi said, still professing his love for “old country.”
No matter where entertains, he said, reflecting on when he was “a little fiddler playing nightclubs” to more than three decades of theaters, “you have a fresh audience every night.”
Speaking of change through generations, at the Alabama Theatre, look for his 32-year-old daughter, Christina Tabuchi, whom he said first graced the stage, singing at age 5.
“She puts on a little newer type of show,” the happy father said. “She’s into newer types of music. She’s modern country.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.