17 September 2011

The Early and Rocky Path to Fame

Johnny’s all started with Johnny Kitagawa who was born in L.A. but later moved to Japan to work. While in Japan he coached a boys baseball team. In 1962 he went and saw a production of West Side Story and was inspired to see about taking a few of the boys in his baseball team and making them a musical group believing that they could do better. From this the first Johnny’s boy band, simply called Johnny’s, was created in 1962. They only lasted five years before disbanding but that did not stop Johnny from creating other boy bands after them.

Four Leaves
The group that first put Johnny’s & Associates on the map was Four Leaves which debuted in 1968. The members of Four Leaves were Aoyama Takashi (who has passed away since), Egi Toshio, Kita Koji and Orimo Masao. They did quite a few musicals during their time and even began the trend of Johnny’s appearing in dramas. The group disbanded in 1978 but reunited in 2002 though under a different agency. In 2009 Aoyama died after a battle with cancer.

One of the big things Four Leaves brought around was the use of trainees from the agency to back dance for them and from these trainees new groups to debut being created. Two such groups that came out of these trainees back dancing for Four Leaves were High Society and Jukebox. Both groups did not last very long and disbanded within a few years after their debut.

Go Hiromi

The next success Johnny’s had they actually lost. Go Hiromi is one of the few that was asked to join the agency in 1971 but left J&A about four years after. He is one of the rare cases in the Japanese entertainment world where he was able to change his agency and find greater success. In fact he’s one of the more popular solo male singers in Japan and even though he’s well in his 50s he’s still going strong. He was also the first Johnny's to win the Best New Artist award at Japan Records, which is considered the Japanese version of the Grammy's.

Johnny's Junior Special
In 1974 the group Johnny’s Junior Special was formed and debuted. The group was a trio and while they disbanded it was to add two girls to the group se they could debut as a five member unit under the name VIP. But VIP did not last long and the group was down to two members by 1980.


VIP does stand as proof of there once being girls as a part of Johnny’s as well as the all girl group, Orange Sisters and talent Mori Mitsuko. Not much is known about the girls but there were groups from the 60s and 70s but Johnny’s dropped them all during the mid-1980s to turn to being a boys only idol agency. Though Mori Mitsuko still has connections with the agency and has been seen in connection with Johnny’s, such as participating in Johnny's produced stage plays and musicals, up to the present day.

One of the more well known groups of the 1980s was Shibugakitai. This group was a trio that was formed after the three were in a drama together. They were one of the first Johnny's to appear on variety shows as regulars, though they never had one of their own. Probably one of the more notable things about the group was the creation of a rival group to be on the show with them, Shounentai, who are still around today.

Tanokin Trio

Other Johnny’s group of the 1980s to note was the Tanokin Trio, that was made up of Tahara Toshihiko, a soloist that was often paired with Kondo “Matchy” Masahiko (another soloist) and Nomura Yoshio (member of the band group The Good-Bye). The groups' name comes from the first kanji of their names, Ta for Tahara, No for Nomura and Kin is another way to read the kanji for Kon in Kondo. They actually didn’t release anything music-wise as a group but existed as the three members were all in 3-nen 3-gumi Kinpachi-Sensei drama, almost always on shows together and did concerts together. They also starred in a few movies together.

Of course with Matchy and Shounentai it’s time to finish this portion of Johnny’s history. These two acts mark the start of giving the different acts that Johnny has debuted as unlike the rest they still have members that are not only still a part of the agency but are still active with activities.

TRIVIA: Namida-kun Sayonara was one of the group Johnny's songs that has been covered by two debuted groups, TOKIO on their TOK10 album and Hey! Say! JUMP for the Sensei wa Erai drama special, and it still gets covered from time to time by the Juniors.

In the 1990s Kita Koji wrote a tell all book titled Hikaru Genji e which included the initial allegations of Johnny and other members of management molesting talents.

Hatakeyama Masahisa from Johhny’s Junior Special/VIP is technically still with Johnny’s himself but is no longer a talent. He’s now a choreographer.

3-nen 3-gumi Kinpachi-Sensei was a popular drama series that since its first season with the Tanokin Trio has had strong connections with Johnny's and several Johnny's began their acting careers with the drama.

Ninja, a band group from 1990-1994, is the only post Shounentai group to no longer have any of their members still with the agency.

Next Entry > Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends


Jackie said...

Thank you for this! To tell the truth, I don´t know much about Johnnys before SMAP. Of course there´s Matchy, Shounentai but especially the groups before,I´ve never heard about them , so your post is a great information!
And looking at the photos, it´s amazing how styling makes one look different than the idols today :)

Misa said...

Somehow Johnnys boys look muuuch more handsome these days than before O_O

Thennary Nak said...

@ Jackie

I'm sure most fans, especially newer ones know much pre-SMAP. Which is a big reason why I wanted to do this project.

It is rather surprising at how different styles have changes. Especially when you look at something current trying to look retro, like HSJ's Magic Power look, and seeing how well they've done.

@ Misa

I think part of that just might be the quality of the images and the fact they didn't really airbrush photos like they do today. Though I also do think the boys these days would win when it comes to looks for the most part.

Karina said...

I like this entry, it´s so informative !!
Thanks a lot ^^

Thennary Nak said...

You are very welcome and I'm glad you like the entry.