For the decades that I have been earnestly following Japanese popular music, the various boy bands and solo acts under Johnny & Associates（ジャニーズ事務所）headed by the now-87-year-old Johnny Kitagawa（ジャニー喜多川）have been ever-present. Along with Hiromi Go（郷ひろみ）, Toshihiko Tahara（田原俊彦）and Masahiko Kondo（近藤真彦）, there have been the units ranging from Shonentai（少年隊）and Hikaru Genji（光GENJI）in the 80s all the way to the current kings of SMAP and Arashi（嵐）.
But I always wondered who the very first Johnny's act was. Was it Matchy or Shonentai or further back with Hiromi Go? Who created the Big Bang for the Johnny's universe?
Well, I guess I don't have to wonder any longer...
When I was checking out the lineup for the 16th Kohaku Utagassen in 1965 and came across Sachiko Nishida's（西田佐知子）marvelous "Akasaka no Yoru wa Fukete"（赤坂の夜は更けて）, I also saw another entry which was simply called Johnnys（ジャニーズ）and they were responsible for that old jazzy chestnut "Mack The Knife", popularized by the late Bobby Darin. I started musing "Hmm...could this be...?"
And sure enough it was. This was Johnny Kitagawa's（ジャニー喜多川）first boy group...the Ancestor Zero to Arashi and SMAP. While the future Svengali for all Japanese boy bands was working at the US Embassy in Tokyo, he encountered teenagers Teruhiko Aoi（あおい輝彦）, Osami Iino（飯野おさみ）, Ryo Nakatani（中谷良）and Hiromi Maie（真家ひろみ）playing baseball in the massive Yoyogi Park (thank you, Wikipedia) in the early 1960s, and apparently, he recruited them to become Johnnys, the first boy singing-and-dancing group in Japan. I've got no idea how Kitagawa was inspired to come up with the idea for creating such a unit while working at the Embassy, but perhaps it was a bit like Einstein coming up with the Theory of Relativity while he was puttering away at the patent office (which is probably more story than truth).
In any case, Johnnys was born in early 1962 and had their run until late 1967. And during that time, the unit released 15 singles and 1 album before calling it quits. "Mack The Knife" wasn't an official single but it was covered by the band and it was even performed on the 1965 Kohaku Utagassen on their one and only appearance on the NHK special.
Of the four members of Johnnys, Aoi and Iino parlayed their time and experience into long careers as actors/singers. Also, according to the Wikipedia article on the group,'...the group is often called "First Generation Johnny's" or "Founding Johnnys".'