Atop his self-built rig of musical instruments and electronic gizmos, Arthur Nakane performs as his iconic one-man band during the 2008 Nisei Week Festival, in Little Tokyo’s Japanese Village Plaza. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Arts and Entertainment Editor

Arthur Nakane, known for decades for his outlandish yet spirited one-man band performances around Southern California, was recovering in Pasadena Wednesday, following emergency surgery on portions of his spine.

Nakane, 76, took a hard fall after a bath at his home on May 31, injuring vertebrae in his neck. His daughter, Christina Nakane Hawes, said the musician had taken a long, hot soak to ease the symptoms of a bad cold, and either slipped while exiting the tub or fainted.

Hawes reported that her father was unconscious in his apartment for several hours before a neighbor heard him knocking on a wall.

Nakane underwent surgery June 6 at Huntington Memorial Hospital to address the damage to his spinal column and to tend to a fractured cheek bone.

Hawes said doctors found considerable degeneration in Nakane’s cervical vertebrae and that immediately following the fall, they feared he might by paralyzed to some extent. They were encouraged when a couple of days after being admitted to the hospital, he regained some use of his arms and legs.

In a statement issued by Nakane from his hospital bed, the musician said he was initially afraid his one-man band days were over.

“When I found out that I had no grip, which [I need for] guitar-playing, I thought basically all that is left is my voice,” he said. “But a peaceful feeling came over, that I’ve done my best and I’m proud of what I’ve done. So, if I can’t play the one-man band style, fine; if I cannot play the guitar; again fine. There’s no fear, because now it’s the message, not the music that Id really like to spread.”

Nakane expressed gratitude for the warm reception he has received from audiences since he first began performing in the 1960s. From Little League picnics and the Venice Beach boardwalk to Little Tokyo and network television, Nakane’s signature style, handmade rig of instruments, sound effects and electronic gizmos, along with his lighthearted banter, has made him truly one of SoCal’s originals.

Hawes said that although there were no major complications during the surgery, her father has been unexpectedly slow to respond afterwards, which has caused concern among his doctors and family. She said at this point, any return to playing music and his regular performance schedule in the Japanese Village Plaza is completely unknown.

Nakane is expected to be in rehabilitation for at least several months, but in his statement, he said that whatever ability he retains will be put to the best use possible.

“Even through this, with everything taken out, I still have everything. And if it’s taken away, if something goes bad with the surgery, then I’ll go on, I have nothing to lose, only to gain.”

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published.

  1. What a wonderful man and inspiration you are! Thank you for the gifts you have brought to the world.

  2. Arthur Im sorry to hear about your injury i asked Ben the barber about you he told me about you had a accident not a lot of details . All i could think about is how much you loved performing wherever you appeared I remember all the years you performed at Shakeys in Glendale we enjoyed that or that time you set up your instruments in Bens barber shop and played for hours fun well A
    rthur God Bless you we pray you have a full recovery best regards, David and family

  3. I saw you today at the Japanese Village Plaza.
    I’m very glad you came back to spread your music!

  4. Arthur, I was wondering why I hadn,t seen you at the club for a few weeks. I am sorry to hear of your terrible accidnet and pray for a speedy recovery.

    If and when you feel like it, come see me at the Continental and sing for us.

    We would love to hear you again..
    Your friend of many years,
    Jim Mc Ewan