By CHERIL VERNON
CROCKETT — During his first tour in 13 years, famous Branson performer Shoji Tabuchi will present the Shoji Tabuchi Christmas Show on Friday, Dec. 14 in Crockett as part of the Pineywoods Fine Art Association’s 22nd season of fine arts performances.
“We have been so busy in Branson, Missouri these past several years, but we have so many requests for tours, we finally decided to do it,” Tabuchi said during a phone interview with the Herald-Press Thursday.
Tabuchi’s show is known for “the glamour of Hollywood, the spectacle of Vegas, the production of Broadway and the family fun of Branson,” with its extravagant sets, costume design and lighting teams.
“We start the tour Dec. 13 and come home Dec. 19. Then we head back on tour in Florida and Pennsylvania in February,” Tabuchi said.
Tabuchi will be performing with his daughter, Christina, and bringing a team of about 14 with him to Crockett. While in Texas, he also will perform in Orange and Galveston.
“This is very special Christmas show. We play different types of Christmas music, all different styles,” Tabuchi said. “You can expect to see every kind of music in our show from country to pop to jazz to big band — that’s what we do at the theater in Branson — that’s our style of music.”
Of course, Tabuchi, known for his violin skills, will perform, along with his fiddle player, special treats including “Orange Blossom Special.”
“When you are in Texas, you have to play Bob Wills’ music,” Tabuchi said.
Tabuchi, born April 16, 1944 in Daishoji, Ishikawa, Japan, got his start in music at age 7, when his mother encouraged him to learn how to play the violin under the Suzuki Method.
When Roy Acuff of the Grand Ole Opry took his act to Japan, Tabuchi attended his concert and met him after the show. Acuff told Tabuchi that if he was ever in Nashville to look him up.
Inspired, Tabuchi began to pursue a career in country and bluegrass music. During college, Tabuchi formed a band called the Bluegrass Ramblers and won a national contest in Japan. He then decided to travel to America with his violin and $500. After residing in San Francisco, Kansas City, and Louisiana, he eventually made it to Nashville to meet Acuff. Acuff was true to his word and arranged an appearance for the young Japanese fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry radio variety show. Tabuchi later made numerous appearances on the Grand Ole Opry.
“I never dreamed I would be doing what I am doing now,” Tabuchi recalled during the phone interview. “After I met Mr. Acuff, I started listening to all kinds of music and dreamed of coming to the U.S.”
Around 1980, Tabuchi arrived in Branson, Mo. and after performing successfully for a few years he took a gamble and built one of the most elaborate theaters in Branson. The theater was finished in 1990, and he began his show’s 22 years of production as of 2012. The theater is touted as a tourist attraction by travel magazines, designed in the style of grand theaters of the 1930s.
Tabuchi has never produced a recording on a major label, but the Japanese-born fiddler ranks among the most popular musicians in the United States, creating a multi-million dollar entertainment empire. He employs about 200 people at his elaborate 2,000 seat theater in Branson, where he performs two shows daily during most of the year, often selling out the shows.
“In 40 years, I have never missed a show except when I got invitations — twice — to perform at the White House,” Tabuchi said.
After moving to Branson in 1980, he met his second wife, Dorothy Lingo, after she attended several of his shows at the Starlite Theater; he became the stepfather to her two children from a previous marriage. Currently his wife helps with numerous aspects of the Shoji Tabuchi Show such as choreography, costumes and the theater’s interior design. Tabuchi is sometimes accompanied on stage by his daughter, Christina, who performs part-time in Branson and part-time in Nashville and other places.
“We put Christina in the show when she was 4 years old so she has grown up with us on stage. She’s been a part of most of the acts. She enjoys it. I look forward to performing with her and hearing her sing,” Tabuchi said.
For Tabuchi, his favorite part about performing is connecting with the audience.
“I love people and performing. Every show is different because it’s a personal challenge to be able to connect with the audience. It’s fun, I love it,” Tabuchi said.
Those who have seen Tabuchi’s show in Branson will see a different kind of show in Crockett.
“It’s different because there is no way we can bring the humongous set pieces we have on stage at our theater on the road with us,” Tabuchi said. “Because of that, it will be different. But we will try to bring all of the elements with us, as well as the same people we work with in Branson.”
While this is Tabuchi’s first time to perform in Crockett, he is familiar with East Texas.
“I’ve fished and golfed by Lake Palestine, two of my hobbies,” Tabuchi said.
The Shoji Tabuchi’s Christmas Show is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 at the Crockett Civic Center. Tickets are $27, available online at www.pwfaa.org or at the Piney Woods Fine Arts office at 603 E. Goliad Ste. 203 in Crockett from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.pwfaa.org or call 936-544-4276.
“This is my first time to Crockett. I am looking forward to visiting with the people of Crockett and the surrounding areas who come out for the show,” Tabuchi said. “If you can’t come to the performance in Crockett, come see us in Branson.”
This show is presented by the PWFAA with KIVY/KMVL Radio, Houston County Life, Houston County Courier and Messenger and sponsored by the Houston County Electric Cooperative and Citizens National Bank.