Hello, all. I apologize for not posting for such a long time. Something is happening this weekend that got me thinking about something I’d like to share with you. Grab a cup of coffee and get settled in, this one’s gonna take a little time.
I came to Japan in Feb. of 1991. At the time I was REALLY into playing billiards and my first full day here that is what I did, I searched for a billiards shop and went there. Before too long I was meeting the local guys my age that played. One guy that I met was a long hair, thin, wiry looking fella with a really handsome face. His name was/is Yuichi. As we got to know each other over the coming months we learned that we both liked the same kinds of music. He told me that he played guitar. I had a little background with the guitar. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it immensely. Anyway, one day we were at the billiards parlour and Yuichi told me that he was going down to the guitar shop to pick up some strings and asked me if I’d like to go along for the ride. Sure, why wouldn’t I? So, he took me to this little shop in town called Music Town Rasta. The shop was small, but it was filled with all kinds of really cool vintage guitars, nice amps, etc… etc… This was no place for someone looking to pick up a cheap beater, the goods were in here. Imagine the world famous Norman’s….in Japan.
Anywho, the owner of the shop greeted us when we came in. Yuichi seemed to be a regular customer in there and was very comfortable just pulling up a chair at the counter and shooting the bull. The owner seemed really interested in me. He loved America, he went there at least once a year to buy guitars……and he frequented Norman’s now that I think about it. Along with his love for America he was really into American football. I too am a HUGE fan of American football so we hit it off real quick. Before too long, I too was a regular customer of the shop. Many, many days just going in to hangout for the day. The owner’s name was Takashi, but everyone called him “Shachou”, that is word the Japanese use for “President”….of a company, not like the President of the US.
As the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, Shachou and I became good friends. Some mornings he’d give me a call and we’d go hit the pool and get some swimming in before going to open the shop. I knew his family and I even taught his daughter English for a while. I spent a lot of time in that shop. I always got to mess around with guitars that most people only dream about. I could kick myself for not buying that ’68 Les Paul Black Beauty he had for 3,000 dollars. I couldn’t even look at one of those for that price nowadays.
Oh, a little side story. In the shop he had this drum throne that he kept back amongst the guitars. If you wanted to play a guitar or test an amp you could sit on that drum chair. The only down side to that was that the frickin’ thing was broken underneath. Whenever you’d pick it up by the seat part of it it would come off the post and you’d be left with a round drum seat in your hand and the rest of it was on the floor. I always bitched at him to get rid of that piece of crap and get a new chair. He wouldn’t have any of that talk though. “No reason to waste money” he would say. “You’ve been here long enough to know it comes apart, stop picking it up like that”. hahaha!!
Hanging out at the shop all the time I got to watch him working on guitars. Eventually I just flat out asked him “Hey, can you show me how to change a pickup?” It was there that my lifetime, so far at least, love for tinkering around the innards of a guitar started. Whenever I’d see something I didn’t know I’d just ask him to show me how to do it and he would. The majority of tinkering I would do would be on my own guitars. Eventually though, when a customer would bring in something to be fixed, he would turn it over to me and he’d stand there and watch me and give me tips on how to make it better. One day he was getting ready to run out for a little bit to get a few errands taken care of when a customer came in with a 50’s Tele that he wanted the soldering to be touched up a bit. Shachou, without skipping a beat, told him that he needed to go out for a while, then he turned to me and said “Jim, take care of this”. I didn’t work there, I was just a customer, but he was leaving the store with me in charge and handing me a guitar that costs more than my house and wanted me to do the repairs on it. He told me to go over it and make sure the neck was straight, screws tightened, check all the connections etc…. and fix up whatever needed to be done. He said if I come across something I didn’t know, just set it aside and he’d take care of it later. I had arrived.
Fast forward 14 years. I went into the shop one day and he was sitting there playing his guitar, he had a Sonic Stratocaster, pearl green body, maple neck, ebony fingerboard, no fret markers. Anyway, he was sitting there playing through a Fender Blues Jr that had come in a few days before. The sound of that amp was incredible. Of course his playing had a lot to do with that too. Anyway, I really liked the sound of that amp so I asked him “how much is this going for?” and he said “It’s not for sale. I like it so much I’m gonna keep it here.” I told him I’d buy it but he said “no way.” Later that evening when I was going home I was heading across the parking lot to my car when I heard him call my name. “Hey, Jim, come back here” So, I went back in. He said “Take it, it’s yours”. I was like “Really, how much?” and he said “Nothing, just take it. It’s yours”. Damn, Shachou, that’a awfully generous. He carried it out and put it in my car. That’s how I got my Blues Jr.
About 2 weeks after the Blues Jr. incident I was coming in from work on a Friday evening when my friend, we call him Dr. T, called me. Dr. T and I are guitar buddies. We’ve gigged together quite a bit and he’s someone that I consider a really dear friend. Anyway, Dr. T calls me and he says “Jim, Shachou died today”. It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. “What?? He’s only 49 years old!!”. Dr. T told me that everyone was at the shop so I jumped in my car and ran down there. Turns out that he was at home that morning watching a baseball game lying on the sofa. His wife came in and told him he should probably get ready for work, the shop opened at noon. He said “OK”, stood up from the sofa, raised his arms above his head to stretch, had a massive coronary, and dropped dead where he was standing. From all accounts he was dead before he hit the floor.
I get to the shop and it was a madhouse. Shachou wasn’t very good at keeping records and there were a bunch of people there that had guitars out for refinishes, or orders that had been placed and partially paid for….it was a mess. I can understand their feelings, but, can you at least let the body get cold before doing this shit? We spent the rest of the evening there trying to get things in order. It was an insurmountable task and I was getting pissed off more and more when someone would say something about possibly getting screwed out of money. My thought was “hey, let’s wait until after the funeral to take care of this”. Needless to say there were some people that showed their true colors that evening and I, in turn, cut them out of my life.
We just passed the 10th anniversary of his death in April. This coming Saturday night we are having a tribute live show to remember Shachou. 5 bands joining consisting of people that used to hang out there regularly. My band seems to be the main event of the night. I usually do an EVH style solo spot in our shows but this time I’m going to take that time to talk a little about Shachou, he deserves it. His wife has since moved out of their house and I don’t know where she went. If I could get a hold of her I’d like to borrow his guitar and have it on stage with us. No way to find her though.
Anyway, that’s my story. I hope I didn’t bore you with it. This Saturday, if you remember, about 9:00pm Japan time, give a little nod to the heavens for Shachou. I know you guys would have loved him.
Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.
P.S. As I was leaving the shop that night, I grabbed the drum throne. It’s up in my room next to my desk. I’ll never get rid of it.
P.P.S. Remember Yuichi from earlier? He’s the bassist in my current band. All these years later and we’re still friends.
L to R: Yuichi, me, Koji
Poster for the Tribute show. Rest in Peace, old friend.