The CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN, established since 1994, is the only existing official, original, authentic maker and provider of the cool one-stringed musical instruments made using the diatonic scaled fret boards with cans as resonators. When first starting out as a business, the only way that these instruments could be effectively introduced and marketed was to pre-manufacture them and then to take them out and demonstrate them openly to the public. In the early days, seeking out the most logical places where folks could encounter these instruments required some very creative and often very expensive ways to get them seen, and heard, by large groups of people gathered together. A long road followed in attempt to successfully get these, then, newfangled musical ‘cantraptions’ recognized, publicized, and marketed. Herschel R. Brown, the creator of the first designs of these instruments, contributed largely to this venture by initially supplying parts and with encouraging support. The financial expenses and physical efforts, the concepts and implementation of creative marketing, the travel, the intense, persistent, and regular, interactive “pressing the flesh” with the public potential buyers, though, came solely, completely, and directly from the sole proprietor and founder of the CanJoe Company, John VanArsdall. As a musician and entrepreneur trying to attract other musically inclined folks to pick up and play stringed instruments, it was clear that those who might be intimidated by fretted stringed instruments would easily understand, once demonstrated, that the one-stringed ‘Canjoe’ instrument, (the brand name used to identify the CanJoe Company product since its origin), can be played by most anybody and by most every age group. So, John began the long hard climb up journey to beat the nearly impossible odds of selling something on a wide scale market that nobody most anywhere had ever before seen, and of which appeared, at first to many, as another “flash-in-the-pan” gimmicky idea. Besides making quality built instruments and getting out into the public, a conceptual and plausible marketing scheme required also for newly creating logos, slogans, fliers, brochures, writing out new tabs and publishing the printed music for new owners to learn, creating and publishing instrument specific song books, branding and creating both a newly introduced product and the entire market for it, all from scratch.
Starting out, getting himself and his products into public view also required a whole lot of communicating with and convincing reluctant venue owners/managers to allow any opportunity to present them for sale. Once in, though, the natural attraction of the simplicity of design and ease of learning to play these cool little instruments gathered huge crowds as they were publicly performed on, proving to all witnesses that they were, and are truly “real” instruments and that “real” music can be played on them. From the beginning, too, there were those few who would pick one off the display table, study its simple designs, and profess that they could go home and make them, themselves. As time has evolved, these instruments have now found their popularity to have grown exponentially around the world. They’ve more recently popped up like berries on bushes, everywhere, and many are being made by amateur hobbyists and others who have jumped on the wagon train. There still remains a huge difference from those new ones being made, sold, or marketed by others verses the originals, though. Experience, for instance, is something that most have yet to accomplish. Yes, there are many who can fabricate items that look similar, but what they who have more recently jumped in to this market, ALL have as one main thing in common, that as their only goal is to make money, to make a profit. Unlike the rest, though, that aim is not, and has never been the primary purpose that John, aka CanJoe*John, ever began the CanJoe Company. Making a living is not all about making money. As John’s experience over the past 20 years, now, has progressed, the instruments that he designs and creates have also greatly evolved, have majorly improved, and have become a whole different ‘creature’ from their introductory models. Just like any artist that creates, these musical items each hand crafted by CanJoe*John are true works of art and are exclusively his own original designs with each and every one that is made by his hands. No longer referred to as “customers” but instead as clients, each instrument ordered is always made custom and specifically for those will own it and is always artistically hand created to meet and match individual personalities and desires of the receivers. Every instrument produced by the CanJoe Company will always greatly surpass the expectations of all those who order them and always will be of greater value than the amount of money expended. Whenever someone contacts John to inquire about purchasing one, or more, of his instruments, the whole experience between them is personal. Information gathered that helps him guide the choices and inspires the final creation is integrated into every fiber of the process. Recently, as just one example, a man called the CanJoe Company phone number after searching the net looking for the “best” made “canjo” that he could spend his hard earned money on. He decided after comparing all others that the CanJoe Company clearly won over his admiration and respect. In the conversation of discovery as to what would suit this man’s needs, he chose to order a lesser expensive “Deluxe” model to start out with. It was also discovered that he had served 40 years of active service in the US Army and that he wanted a camouflage design on his can to reflect his experience. Having a “Real Tree” can in reserve on the CanJoe Company shop shelf, this was the choice he desired. Well, instead of creating his instrument as a “Deluxe” model, though, John decided to significantly upgrade this order. The reason, as John’s personal way to honor this man’s service to our country, as a fellow veteran, and because of the trust and admiration expressed by him for the quality of craftsmanship of the CanJoe Company made art. So, in all consideration John personally felt compelled that this particular instrument deserved the very highest level of attention. Instead of using the poplar wood that is usual with the “Deluxe” models, a fine piece of antique, beautifully aged, black walnut was used and a spectacular piece of curly maple was veneer fixed on its surface as the finger board. The creative stain pattern applied on the finger board was designed to emulate, or symbolize, a military award ribbon, but also to match the colors of the camouflage can. This ‘way and above’ super premium model, when finished, was then promptly mailed to the new owner who had no idea that he was to receive anywhere near the beauty and quality that he now owns. His recent phone call to John to express his thrilled reaction and his personal honor to own it, was received with almost as much the joy of satisfaction that went into making it. This is but one example, too, that is the common practice, the rule and not the exception of the way that CanJoe*John and his CanJoe Company operates; to always create true art, to always produce and provide way above better than considered or expected, to put smiles on the faces of others as being far greater rewarding than any amount of money ever offered for or received for any CanJoe Company “product” that leaves the shop… so, let’s see, too, of how many out there can, or will even attempt to make or offer anything as remotely or justly “similar”, at any price …
As another example of the detailed personalization that is represented by the hand written inscription on the can, though the image is also artistically photo altered, this salutes the newest receiver of this custom made CanJoe Company instrument for his 40 years of service to our country:
For all inquiries, prices or orders, please call 423-323-0174, or 423-612-4320.