Bill Clifton with friends at 1993 Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival in Japan

Many thanks to Kaz Inaba in Japan for sharing this historic video of Bill Clifton when he visited Japan in 1993, and performed at the Takarazuka Spring Bluegrass Festival.

The festival has been hosted since 1972 by Saburo and Toshio Watanabe, both former members of Japanese bluegrass sensations, Bluegrass 45. Their tours of the US in the early ’70s made them fans and friends all over the country, and gave a big push to the popularity of bluegrass in Japan.

Bill Clifton had developed a strong following there by the 1990s, as he had in Europe, to the point where he was perhaps more popular overseas than at home in the US at times during his career. He is featured on nearly three dozen recordings (several of them reissues), starting in 1963 and going through the mid-aughts. His popularity in the ’60s had much to do with his familiarity and affection for the sort of folk music that was selling records in the States, and the fact that his versatile voice was right at home in that style.

At Takarazuka in ’93, Clifton was supported by Kaz Inaba on banjo, Hidemichi Hirai on mandolin, and Junior Noda on bass.

Their set included:

  1. The Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee
  2. Gathering Flowers From The Hillside
  3. Where The Rainbow Finds Its End
  4. My Dixie Darling
  5. You Go To Your Church
  6. Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
  7. Be On Time
  8. Gold Watch And Chain 
  9. Unknown instrumental
  10. Walkin’ In My Sleep

The video will be a warm reminder of Bill’s voice and his songs during a time when he quite rarely performs.

Kaz Inaba is still an active bluegrass artist in Japan. You can follow his career online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.