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If you’re into Japanese boy bands at all, you’ve definitely heard of Johnny’s & Associates, the long-running talent agency founded by Johnny Kitagawa (ジャニー喜多川). We’ve learned some tragic news – the original Johnny himself has died at the age of 87.
Born John Hiromu Kitagawa (喜多川 擴) on October 23rd in 1928 in Los Angeles, Johnny returned to his family in Japan later in 1933. After World War II, he returned to America in 1949 or so, only to once again return to Japan to work at the United States Embassy in Tokyo.
While walking through Yoyogi Park, ran into some boys playing baseball, and recruited them to sing as a group. This was the first group known as “The Johnnies,” and became quickly popular by combining attractive young performers with coordinating dancing routines and good music.
This was the first all-male pop group in Japan, and set the pattern for Kitagawa to recruit many subsequent acts under the label “Johnnies,” a term later used to describe any male performer on their label.
Due to the popularity of his company, Johnny held a virtual monopoly on Japanese boy bands for over forty years. Over a dozen groups soared to popularity after being recruited by Johnny, including Four Leaves, Tanokin Trio, Hey! Say! JUMP, SMAP, Arashi, Kanjani8, V6, and more.