I was talking with commenter Noelle Tham over the last couple of days regarding the same episode of NHK's "Kayo Concert" （歌謡コンサート）that we had seen. We were talking about Masatoshi Nakamura's （中村雅俊）appearance when he sang his debut song, "Fureai"（ふれあい）, but we also mentioned "Osanajimi" (Old Friends) by vocal group Duke Aces（デューク・エイセス）, and I thought after seeing the group's very jaunty performance that night, it was worth covering.
Duke Aces was formed all the way back in 1955 as a quartet of two tenors, a baritone and a bass. The group has undergone a number of lineup changes for which baritone Michio Tani（谷 道夫） is currently the only Ace who has been with the group since the beginning. Duke Aces has been a name that I've heard a lot over the years and I have seen the quartet appear on a number of programs, and all that time, I'd placed them on the same podium as Mood Kayo groups such as The Cool Five and Mahina Stars because of the era and the fact that they were a group. However, according to the J-Wiki page for Duke Aces, the quartet has sided more with spirituals, jazz chorus and a 3-year series (1966-1969) called "Nihon no Uta" （にほんのうた...Songs of Japan） for which songwriters Rokusuke Ei （永六輔）and Taku Izumi（いずみたく） traveled to most of the prefectures in the country and created songs which best represented aspects of the individual provinces with the group expressing them in song.
However, "Osanajimi" was three years before that epic project. Written by Ei and composed by Hachidai Nakamura（中村八大）, the same tandem behind Kyu Sakamoto's （坂本九）legendary "Sukiyaki" song, in 1963, it was created for a segment on Japanese TV's very first variety program titled "Yume de Aimashou"（夢であいましょう...Let's Meet in Our Dreams）. Listening to "Osanajimi" the other night, it was definitely not something that would be labeled a Mood Kayo to be heard in a Shinjuku bar. In fact, I think it would be more fitting as a singalong tune for a group of folks hiking up and down somewhere in the Japanese Alps. And the older generations at least love a good singalong. It was also nice to hear every one of the Aces have their time in the limelight....as Noelle mentioned, Yoshitaka Makino's （槇野 義孝）bass was pretty amazing.
The above video is of the Duke Aces performing in 1973. Below is a video of the guys on stage in 2013. Incredibly enough, next year will be the quartet's 60th anniversary in show business.