1975–1983: Bow Wow
Bow Wow was formed in 1975 by Yoshimi Ueno, an inexperienced music producer who recruited vocalist and guitarist Mitsuhiro Saito and drummer Toshihiro Niimi, whom he had managed before. Guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto and bassist Kenji Sano were scouted from Yamaha Music School and Bow Wow was officially formed. They soon signed to Victor and released their self-titled debut a year later. In 1977 they opened for Aerosmith and Kiss on their Japanese tours and released two more albums. Their next few records were criticized by critics and fans as being musically all over the place, veering from their hard rock roots, and suffering from poor production values.
However seeing talent in the band, production would soon be overseen by Touru Yazawa who had produced Alice, a renowned folk rock group in Japan. Their first release with the new producer was the album Hard Dog in 1981, which set the pace for the band's future as a respectable hard rock act. In 1982 Bow Wow performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and later the Reading Festival in England. They also released Warning from Stardust, which Daisuke Kawasaki, writing for Rolling Stone Japan, rated No. 23 on a 2007 list of the "100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time". The following year they toured with Hanoi Rocks across the UK and performed their final concert at Nakano Sun Plaza. Guitarist Mitsuhiro Saito left in November 1983 to join ARB.
1984–1990: Vow Wow
In 1984, the remaining three members were joined by vocalist Genki Hitomi and keyboardist Rei Atsumi, this resulted in a more commercial sound and the band decided a name change was necessary. Now called Vow Wow, the band relocated to England and were without a bassist for a short-time, because Kenji Sano needed to return to Japan in 1987. Former Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray was recruited to fill the spot after he and Yamamoto worked on the second album from Phenomena, although Murray later stated he never became a full member. They then began recording the album V with producer Kit Woolven (Thin Lizzy, David Bowie) and co-produced with John Wetton who wrote the lyrics for the album's hit single "Don't Leave Me Now". They were asked by Tommy Vance to create the jingles for his British radio program, the Friday Rock Show. After another album, they recorded the classic hard rock anthem "Rock Me Now" and returned to Japan for a national tour. Although experiencing commercial success, Genki wanted to remain in Japan to begin a family. The band recorded what was to be their final album titled Helter Skelter in 1989, which was handled by Tony Taverner (Gipsy Kings, Black Sabbath). After the album Rei joined RC Succession for a live tour and Neil became a member of Black Sabbath.
Shortly after, producers Nick Griffiths (Queen, Paul McCartney) and Bob Ezrin (Kiss, Pink Floyd) requested to create an album with Vow Wow. The band regrouped without Neil who was recording with Black Sabbath, and utilized American studio bassist Mark Gould for their final album, Mountain Top. Vow Wow disbanded after a May 28, 1990 concert at the Nippon Budokan. Genki became a high school English teacher, while the other members each continued separate musical careers, Kyoji forming the band Wild Flag in 1991.
1995–present: Bow Wow revival and Vow Wow reunion concerts
In May 1995, Kyoji reformed Bow Wow with all new members. They had several releases until dissolving in March 1997. However, in 1998 original members Mitsuhiro Saito and Toshihiro Niimi rejoined Kyoji, and Bow Wow became a trio. In August 2003 they performed in Daegu, South Korea at the O.K.! Crazy!! World Rock Festival. They returned the following year when their next album got a Korean release.
Genki Hitomi and Rei Atsumi reunited with Kyoji and Toshihiro for a Vow Wow reunion concert on December 25, 2009, and for two shows the following year on December 25 and 26, 2010.