Shoji Tabuchi passes

Japanese-American Branson-based legend and member of the National Fiddler’s Hall of Fame, Shoji Tabuchi, passed away on Friday, August 11, 2023, after battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 79. 

Tabuchi was born April 16, 1944, in Daishōji, Ishikawa, Japan (now Kaga, Ishikawa, Japan). 

When Tabuchi turned seven, he went to his elementary school where they had show and tell, and one of his classmates played the violin using the Suzuki method. He went back home to tell his mother that he wanted to play violin using this method.

In 1963 Tabuchi was a sophomore at Momoyama Gakuin University, Izumi, Osaka, and had heard that Roy Acuff was coming to Osaka, Japan. Tabuchi went to his concert and got to meet Acuff backstage. Acuff’s music inspired Tabuchi to pursue country and bluegrass music.

Also, when he was in college, Tabuchi joined The Bluegrass Ramblers; the band went on to win the prestigious Battle of College Bands Championship in 1965. 

Two years later despite only having $500 he decided to go to the United States. 

Rhonda Vincent, a frequent Branson performer herself, remembers being mesmerised watching his trick fiddling, when she saw him on the Frontier Jamboree, Marceline, Missouri, in 1969.

His career in country music started when he was “discovered” by KFDI’s Don Powell, who invited him to sit in with the band at the Western Swinger, which was located at 47th St South and Broadway, Wichita. Such was Tabuchi’s reception that first night that he was asked to join the band.

A Tennessee Records 1969 single – Tennessee Salute / Sukiyaki – had him labelled as ‘The Japanese Cowboy.’

In July of 1972 Tabuchi was performing at Joyland Park in Wichita for KFDI’s 8th Anniversary Party, where he was introduced to Faron Young. That introduction soon led to him joining Billy Walker’s band, with which he stayed for five years. 

Then he joined a band led by football star, Terry Bradshaw. That job only lasted seven months when Bradshaw decided that he didn’t want to be a country singer after all.

Then Tabuchi decided to try playing on his own, travelling around the country performing with pickup bands.

After living and working in San Francisco; Kansas City; San Angelo, Texas; Jonesboro, Arizona; and Louisiana, Tabuchi moved to Nashville to reconnect with Acuff, who arranged an appearance for Tabuchi to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Over the years he was repeatedly invited back to perform on the Grand Ole Opry.

Love Letters In The Sand 

In 1980 Tabuchi entertained fans at The International Festivals of Country Music, Wembley Arena, London. Fittingly, Acuff was another of the artists who performed there that Easter weekend. 

About that time, he moved to Branson, Missouri, and quickly became one of the most popular performers in town. After performing successfully for a few years, he built one of Branson’s most elaborate theaters, which was completed in 1990, and began hosting his show. 

Besides country music, The Shoji Tabuchi Show incorporated bluegrass – with Orange Blossom Special while sometimes doing a headstand being his showpiece – polka, gospel, Cajun, Hawaiian, western swing, rap, and rock music. Tabuchi developed a loyal fan base through these Branson shows. He employed about 200 personnel at his elaborate 2,000-seat theater, where he performed two shows daily most of the year. 

Orange Blossom Special (1997)

After a near-three-year hiatus, in part due to the pandemic, Tabuchi performed at the Nashville Roadhouse Theatre in 2021 during the annual Vets for Vets show, at the Little Opry Theatre (in the IMAX Entertainment Complex), two Branson venues that he used after his own theatre, having been damaged by a backstage fire in May 2017, fell into disrepair. In early 2022 Tabuchi announced plans for a one-year live show celebrating his life and most popular songs.

Tabuchi’s career brought many accolades including The Missourian Award, Japanese Foreign Minister’s Award and Americanism Medal from Daughters of The American Revolution. He was inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2020. 

How Great Thou Art

R.I.P. Tabuchi San

A Discography 

  • Japan To Nashville (NRP NR 2970, ca 1970)
  • Country Music My Way (ABC/Dot DOSD 2022, 1975)
  • Shoji Tabuchi Fiddles And Sings (Jin LP-4008, 1978)
  • After Dark (Shoji SHO 1111, ca 1978)
  • Live At The Grapevine Opry (Aunt Susie ASR 0009, ca 1980)(also released on Westwood [UK] WRS 148, 1980)
  • In Concert (Aunt Susie ASR 0018, ca 1982)
  • Rove Retters From Shoji (Aunt Susie ASR 8310, 1983) (rec. at The Grapevine Opry Studios, Grapevine, Texas, (with Richard Rutherford [lead guitar], Greg Bailey [banjo/acoustic guitar/fiddle], Terry Wood [steel guitar], Dave Milligan [bass], Randy Hardison [drums], David Evans [piano])
  • Classy (Aunt Susie ASR 8411, 1984)
  • Fiddlin’ Around (S.E.I. 001/Ramblin’ Records RLP 8702, ca 1987)
  • Shoji Tabuchi Family Christmas Show (S.E.I. 1992)
  • Shoji Songs For The Lord, And You! (S.E.I. SEI-CD-001, September 30, 1994)
  • Live from Branson (S.E.I. SEI-CD-002, 1995) (recorded in Branson Theatre, Branson, MO)
  • The Shoji Tabuchi Family Wonder Of Christmas Show (S.E.I. SEI-CD-C0101, 1995)
  • Notes from Shoji (S.E.I. SEI-CD-C0103, September 1, 1996) 
  • Different Moods, Collection One (S.E.I. SEI-CD-C0106, 2000)
  • The Shoji Tabuchi Show! Vol IV (S.E.I. SEI-CDS-00109, 2002) (2 CD)
  • Shoji – Music From My Heart (S.E.I. SEI-CDS-00110, March 19, 2007)
  • Timeless (S.E.I. SEI-CDS-00111, May 28, 2010)
  • A Christmas with Shoji (Tabuchi Ent. November 20, 2015)
  • Shoji Lights Up Christmas (Tabuchi Ent. SEI-CD-00112, September 9, 2019)


  • The Shoji Tabuchi Show! Vol. I (S.E.I. )
  • The Shoji Tabuchi Show! Vol. II (S.E.I. )
  • The Shoji Tabuchi Show! Vol. 3 (S.E.I. SEI-CD-C0102, 1997)

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.