Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Tokyo Happy Coats: Japanese Pop on King Records

There is, interestingly enough, a Japanese label that shares the name King RecordsJapan’s King Records even predates Cincinnati’s King Records by twelve years or so.

But back in 1970, it was Cincinnati’s King Records who released two LPs and exactly three 45s by an “all-girl” Japanese pop group, The Tokyo Happy Coats, who are five sisters, we are told — Eiko, Keiko, Shoko, Tomiko, and Ruriko Hakomori.   This would make at least three prominent family acts vying for dominance on the pop chart at the dawn of the 70s:  The Jackson 5, The Osmonds & The Hakomori Sisters of Tokyo Happy Coats.

Ed Sullivan Show

February 27, 1966

(image courtesy of William Bickel)

Tokyo Happy Coats b&w

I confess I am still bewildered by the fact that I only just now found out about these “guys.”  Did any of the local stores in my Cincinnati hometown stock The Tokyo Happy Coats in the early 1970s, I wonder — back when Ultraman, the Japanese space superhero television series, was broadcast regularly on Cincinnati’s local independent station, WXIX (channel 19 in Roman numerals)?   Check out the gals’ take on Sonny & Cher’s “Beat Goes On” from their 1970 live club performance LP, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live:

“The Beat Goes On”

The Tokyo Happy Coats (1970)

Music writer, Ken Shimamoto (The Stash Dauber) writes a fascinating first-person essay that leads into a review of and “appreciation” for The Tokyo Happy Coats from which we learn that “they were a lounge act that toured the states pretty extensively from the mid-’60s on, playing Las Vegas and The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as dives in Pittsburgh and Detroit.  Between ’em, those Happy Coats played a whopping 26 instruments.”  Shimamoto perfectly captures the oddball element in this real-life transcontinental story when he observes, “incredibly, they used to record for King Records, the same label as James Brown.”  Even more revealing are the heartfelt and enthusiastic comments attached to this blog piece that attest to the group’s magnetism, as well as magnanimity.

Tokyo Happy Coats LP

Starday-King (the King label having been consolidated with Starday upon the death of founder, Syd Nathan in 1968) actually leased these recordings from another label — the discography does not indicate where.  What’s odd, however, especially in light of their popularity, is the complete absence of Tokyo Happy Coats recordings in either 45Cat or Discogs apart from these five Starday-King releases.

Curiously, Billboard‘s “Signings” column in its April 12, 1969 edition would announce that Tokyo Happy Coats had just signed to “Bob Marsano’s new label“; however, when you cross-reference “Marsano Music” with Tokyo Happy Coats, you will find two releases — the “Tea-A-Wanna Whistle” 45 [produced by Darrell Glenn and engineered by David Harrison] and 1970’s Forevermore LP [arranged by Dennis Coffey and Don Preston, et al.] — that came out on Starday-King, which I guess is a “new” label (technically) that differs from the King Records of yore.

Or wait – is Bob Marsano’s “new” label Astro Sonic Productions of Berkeley, Michigan?  Note that nearly every Tokyo Happy Coats release that came out on King/Starday-King (save their first) is included in Discogs’ discography of Astro Sonic Productions.  Does this make sense to you?  I would be lying if I claimed to understand how these Happy Coat recordings could be claimed simultaneously by two different labels.


Tokyo Happy Coats (1970)

Billboard‘s June 13, 1970 edition reports that the “Tokyo Happy Coats, another of the Starday-King acts, opened at the Sahara Tahoe on June 4.  They recently released their first single, ‘Forevermore,’ and their first album, The Tokyo Happy Coats Live.”

An Astro Sonic Production

Distributed by Starday-King

Tokyo Happy Coats 45

Billboard‘s October 1, 1966 edition reports that “[a] quintet of all-around bundles of energy, the Tokyo Happy Coats, kept crowds away from the gambling tables and packed into this medium sized lounge [Lake Tahoe’s Juniper Room].  The sisters, relatively new to American audiences, are a happy, multi-talented team which sings, dances and plays a host of instruments.  The end result is appealing, and worth some record man’s attention.  Their voices are most impressive on the ditty, “Peanut, Peanut Butter.

Around Town with Lori” in RPM‘s January 6, 1968 issue filed this review of the group’s Los Angeles performance —

The Hook and Ladder Room of the Beverly Hills Motel got off to a colourful start for ’68 with the Jan. 1st opening of The Tokyo Happy Coats.  The Happy Coats made their first American appearance in 1963, and since then have become known internationally through appearances and television.  They have also cut a Columbia LP entitled Japan and New York. [Really? Why no mention on the web?].  They are very refreshing and a delight to both the eye and ear.  Not only do they feature the traditional Japanese string instrument, the “Samisen” but they keep the place rocking with a delightfully different brand of entertainment.  They sing, dance, and play a vast variety of musical instruments.

(image courtesy of WVXU

The Tokyo Happy Coats were part of 2018’s King Records’ 75th Anniversary celebration:

As part of WVXU’s special programs for King Records Month 2018, “A King Records Potpourri” features the Tokyo Happy Coats and the interview [Roy Baugher] did with WVXU’s Dellan Stokesbary about the band. The Tokyo Happy Coats was a band comprised of the five Hakomori sisters, Eiko, Shoko, Keiko, Tomiko and Ruriko, who started in Japan in the mid-1950s and later came to the U.S. in 1964. The Tokyo Happy Coats recorded for King Records in 1970, and the label would release two singles and two LPs by the band.


Tokyo Happy Coats:

Starday-King Discography

King 45 #6296 “Forevermore” b/w “Harlem Nocturne” [1970]

King 45 #6337 “Tea A-Wanna Whistle” b/w “Here Is Happiness” [1970]

King 45 #6419 “Forevermore” b/w “Here is Happiness” [1970]

King LP #1096 The Tokyo Happy Coats Live [1970]

King LP #1125 Forevermore [1970]


(image courtesy of

3 Responses

  1. Tokyo Happy Coats enjoyed having two local hits here in Hawaii from 1970 to 1971. “Forevermore” made the charts in the summer of 1970 and the follow-up “Here is Happiness” charted on local radio in early 1971. I have one of those King Recordings of “Forevermore” with the B-side that is not “Here is Happiness”. “Foevermore” was issued to a compilation CD in 2004 and has since gone out of print. – The singles got airplay on Hawaii radio stations KKUA, KPOI, KMVI, KGMB, KORL and KPUA – all AM outlets back in 1970-71.

  2. That top photo is from their February 27, 1966 Ed Sullivan gig.

    It’s really a shame that the THC does not have a web site.

    The ladies had a on stage chemistry that really showed up in their novelty

    It was a sad day when the group stopped performing.

    I really miss them.

  3. Im dj christo from uk.. live in. Melb.
    Amazing music too good/.
    …. Are the many records left.. in japan.
    I have got many. Great styles of japp. Jazz and mixed up beats.. brilliant.
    You can google me on dj christo at jack daniels barrell house. Respect i love your country me come back soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Categories