Saburo ‘Sab’ Watanabe passes

Sab Watanabe Inoue, founding banjo player with Bluegrass 45, died yesterday at home in Japan. He was 69 years of age and had been battling cancer this past three years.

One of the most visible and influential bluegrass personalities in Japan, Sab, not only played banjo with Bluegrass 45 for 53 years, he was also the publisher of Moonshiner magazine, the only Japanese language bluegrass monthly available. For 37 years Moonshiner has provided news from the bluegrass world to readers in Japan, with reviews of new albums, artist profiles, and information about opportunities to hear live music.

Sab also has the distinction of being the producer for Tony Rice’s first recording project in 1973. 

Together with his brother, Toshio, he had managed the Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival in Sanda City since launching it together in 1972. The brothers also operated B.O.M. Service in nearby Hyogo, since ’72. The company, whose initials stand for Bluegrass and Old-time Music, sells US and European bluegrass CDs in Japan via their newsletter and online.

US grassers will recall seeing him accept a Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association this past September for Moonshiner.

R.I.P., Saburo Watanabe Inoue.

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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.