Tatsuo Arita passes

Tatsuo Arita, Yoshihiro Sumie, Fred Bartenstein and Katsuhiko SasadaWe just received a note from Fred Bartenstein, sharing the sad news about the loss of a true pioneer of bluegrass music in Japan. Tatsuo “Harry” Arita is said to have brought the first Japanese bluegrass record to the United States in 1960, and Fred tells us that Harry was a loyal and regular contributor to BluegrassCountry.org.

Here is a note that was sent by Sab Watanabe (Saburo Inoue) from B.O.M. Service and Moonshiner Magazine in Japan.

Hello Bluegrass friends,

I just got the sad news that Japanese Bluegrass pioneer, Tatsuo Arita passed away today while he was tour-cruising in the Mediterranean. He was 77 years old, I believe.

He was not a musician but Mr. Arita was a key person who created the first bluegrass-like band East Mountain Boys on Oct. 17, 1958. Mr. Arita was a rare person who knows what the bluegrass band should be at that time and encouraged Don Sano to play banjo and the Ozaki Brothers to play bluegrass style mandolin and guitar.

In 1961, while he was staying at New York he heard the loudspeaker of a car announcing that a bluegrass show was in town so he went there and met David Freeman of County Records. Oh, the car was owned by Stanley Brothers. Mr. Arita and Mr. Freeman quickly became friends and they went to Bluegrass Day on July 4th at Luray Virginia, one the first ever all-bluegrass concerts produced by Bill Clifton.

Mr. Arita along with Ozaki Brothers is in IBMM Video Oral History Project which I think our Japanese will treasure forever!! Thanks to Fred Bartenstein and IBMM.

Personally, I fell in love with bluegrass when I heard a single EP record which Mr. Arita loaned to my brother Toshio in the early 60’s, Flatt and Scruggs’ Old Home Town. Since the day I heard it, my life changed forever.

Mr. Arita was behind the Japanese bluegrass scene since its heyday of the 60’s, so not many people know him. However the people who was inspired by his love of music will never forget what he gave me and us… to Japanese people, the bluegrass music.


Share this:

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.