The History of Canned Stringed Instruments

The history of stringed musical instruments using metal cans, tins, any and all metal based canisters, including fuel cans, oil cans, cookie tins, metal boxes or barrels, bread boxes, or even all sizes of food storage and beverage cans, regardless of the metal compositions used, dates back to the earliest origins of these items. The first use of metal canisters for food storage began in the mid 1860s during the US Civil War. Their designs and the metal materials they’re now made from have been improved upon and have continued to be as used in various applications ever since. Some of the first foods having been stored in metal boxes or canisters include cakes, crackers, breads, and prepared meats. Many non-food products, including the early metal cigar boxes dating back to the late 19th century, too, have been shipped, stored and sold to consumers from the very earliest history of metal containers, as well.

Historically, the first marketed use of storing and selling beverages in cans began in the year 1932 when the Kruger beer company, as an experiment, introduced their beverage products in them. The idea was obviously an excellent one as the public embraced the concept quickly and, soon, many beer producers shifted from bottling to using metal cans to ship, store, and market their beverages. The Anheuser-Bush company, began canning their Budweiser product in the year 1936. The earlier designs of beverage containers include the cone tops, the flat tops, the crown tops, and in the 1960s, the easy pull tab tops were introduced which have since evolved to those aluminum cans used today that keep the tabs attached. The first company to adapt the use of metal cans for soda beverages was the Coca Cola company in the year 1960. Quickly, other soda beverage companies also adapted the use of cans for their products. The value of canning beverages vs bottling was discovered to be far more economical for the benefit of both the producers and consumers as being safer, cheaper, much easier to store, ship, chill, and they quickly became the most preferred method as use by the consumers. Earlier metal compositions used in making cans included and began with such metals as steel, tin, and, eventually, aluminum.

Upon the very earliest introduction of metal containers, especially of the mid 19th century and early twentieth century, folks immediately realized that they were most suitable to be adapted to use as resonators for stringed musical instruments. There are several examples found of round lard cans, for instance, and dating back to the mid 1800s and as having been used during the US Civil War period, for making banjos. Small metal cigar boxes, also as early as the Civil War period, but especially more commonly used during the US Depression era of the 1920s have been applied to the making of stringed musical instruments, such as for banjos, guitars, and fiddles. Cigar box guitars and other stringed instruments using the more common wood cigar boxes as their resonators became very popular during the US Depression era, and are still the preferred material used for the majority of the modern versions of these mostly home made instruments.

When the CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN officially began in 1994 as a licensed commercial venture of making, marketing, and selling, and at first as being of the original Herschel Brown one-stringed musical instrument design, and as the specific instruments that are based on those classically attributed to and having already been a couple of years prior to and initially introduced to the market, as well as were officially branded by him as the “Can-Joe”, the officially recognized specific instrument’s creator, Herschel Brown. The public use of the similar trade name, the “CanJoe”, and from their first public introduction in 1994, became the official and world recognized brand identity of those corresponding to Herschel’s creations that have also, since, been introduced and sold by the CanJoe Company (by Hershel’s personal permission and full approval). Still, variations and designs of many other various multi-stringed musical instruments using metal cans had long before already existed, but again, were rarely ever identified using the term canjo. Anyone using the term “canjo” as a generic reference to any of these various stringed instruments made from using metal containers as their resonators was not until recently been as common. From the beginnings, when most identifying the instruments made by the folks using metal containers as the instrument resonators and, for instance, might be intended as being specifically a banjo design, it was also referred to by near everyone to be called as just that, a banjo, or if it were a guitar, it was referred to and called as being a guitar, not a “canjo“, regardless. Not until the most recent past few years has the term “canjo” now become more commonly applied as a generic reference to virtually any or all stringed instruments that use any type of metal tins, cans, or containers as part of, or as its specific resonator of these various instruments.

In the year 1996, the curator of artifacts for the Australian Museum in Sydney and who deals more specifically with artifacts of the aboriginal bushmen of Australia, sent an email to the CanJoe Company detailing an artifact in their museum dating to the year of its origin as 1955. It is a guitar-like stringed instrument using a kerosene tin as its resonator. Below is a description from the web site of one expert from Australia on these instruments:

Kerosene Tin Dulcimer

“When John Meredith was collecting folk lore in the Mudgee area, he came across this instrument, made by Cyril Abbott, a local bushman and bush musician. Made from the once ubiquitous four gallon kerosene tin (similar to tins in which olive oil is bought in bulk) and a broomstick. The tin bears no strain and needs only be lightly nailed to the broomstick which has a nail or screw to attach the strings which pass over a bridge at each end and are fixed around crude tuning pegs made from screws and wing-nuts. The strings are Steel Guitar strings and are played like the Hawaiian Guitar, with a ‘steel’ to stop the strings and a plectrum. The strings are tuned with two in unison and the third slightly sharper to give a ‘Tremolo’ effect. Sound holes may be cut into the kerosene-tin, either at the ends or in the surface below the strings.”

There has never been, nor will ever there be any claim by anyone in business as associated with, employed by, or owned by the CanJoe Company, nor likely by anyone associated to Herschel Brown’s legacy as either identifying as, or as having claimed exclusive recognition pertaining to the creation, invention, or making of the first ever historically known stringed musical instruments that have used, or are now using metal cans, boxes, or containers as part of their design function. As this blog post should clearly indicate, there are many other stringed instrument designs and known by factual evidence to have prior existed to the specific one-stringed version as first designed and crafted by, as well as initially introduced to the market by Herschel Brown, and/or of the CanJoe Company, as being, too, the first commercially branded and openly sold to the public item using the name “Can-Joe”, or “CanJoe” to identify them. Any confusion by anyone in the public not affiliated with either Herschel Brown or of the CanJoe Company is due the recent to public wide spread use of the now newly accepted generic term currently referencing any and all stringed musical instruments using metal cans as their resonators.

For all inquiries, price information, or to purchase a genuine CanJoe Company product, please call 423-612-4320.

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Early Days of the Genuine, Original ‘Canjoe’ Instrument


Meeting Charlie Daniels

Some of the earliest days when the one-stringed canjoe instrument was barely heard of by virtually anyone in the world, much effort and money to get it popularized was expended. Herschel R. Brown (deceased), the official creator of the instrument was a building contractor at that time. He was far too busy building buildings to put much effort into marketing canjoe instruments. The instrument’s origins began out of Herschel’s shop in the very early 1990’s and some of the production of them was assisted by John L. VanArsdall, Herschel’s friend. Then, in 1993, John had to relocate back to Tennessee, so moved away from the coast of North Carolina where he and Herschel shared their time. When in his new home in Tennessee, John continued, with Herschel’s assistance, to build and market the instruments. From the earliest days of their beginning, everywhere John was seen, or heard about, there was a canjoe instrument in his hands, either being played and promoted, or being assembled and sold.

The photos in the included gallery are a few showing examples of early newspaper articles, live performances, and a few influential people that CanJoe*John met while on the steeply uphill journey of getting these instruments into the foothold of becoming recognized and widely marketable. (Very apparently, too, the herculean efforts have proved quite successful with many, many others who have now followed the trail to take up producing and marketing their many varied and/or similar products).

Y’all stay tuned, more of this story and more photos will follow in upcoming posts.

For more information, details, ordering or inquiries, contact CanJoe*John or the CanJoe Company via email at, or 423-612-4320.

Click on “Download File” to listen to “Redwing” from CD, “One String, One Can, One Man, One Band”(BMI), by artist, “CanJoe*John

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“King of the One String Thing”

Big Frog

Poster of the Big Frog Bluegrass Festival, 2000

The CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN officially began operating as a licensed business in the year 1994, but prior to the legal beginning of the operation of the public commercial sales of these instruments by the proprietor, now known worldwide as “CanJoe*John”, Herschel Brown, the instrument’s creator, and CanJoe*John were very close friends who, at the time, both lived in the same town and who associated closely in the earliest manufacturing of them. The history of that association is found in nearly every one of the stories as available to any and all who read these blog posts, as well as, but more importantly, is fully documented and published in dozens of newspaper stories, magazine articles, on television newscasts and in extended news stories, or literally in hundreds of other published documents accessible to public view, and that date all the way back to the very beginning. Much more often than not, though, many now come along who have decided they are true authorities on the history, the facts, the origins, and are as self appointed ‘experts’ on how the instruments should be made, giving assundry and opined accounts of where the instruments supposedly got their start, etc. Recently, it was pointed out from yet another self designated authority and on his relatively new web site that the instrument is based on a “zither”. Also, that “they began with soda pop cans, but once they became popularized, now use bean and soup cans”…

There is a real history of these instruments. There is significant, documented evidence, too, of the history that when by indisputable documentation is presented, regardless, will still be attempted to be disputed and discredited. Nevertheless, the truth does always rise to the top, eventually. This post is about the true master craftsman of these instruments and who began by physically helping make them with the instrument’s genuine creator, Herschel R. Brown, from the very beginning, and who continues still to this day designing, creating new ones, hand making these instruments, and now with over 25 years experience. As officially and literally living the living history of these instruments one has no need to contrive or obfuscate the truth. Many have viewed and often peruse the many stories posted, but the photos of the instruments that are posted of each hand crafted by the artist, CanJoe*John, as well, tell a detailed story of themselves.

The poster at the top of this blog post has a history, too. It is of a festival in Cleveland, TN that brought “CanJoe*John” on as a headliner act to perform in the year 2000 (a date that precedes all other contemporary ‘canjo’ makers by nearly a decade). The story that follows, though written by CanJoe*John, is one not only witnessed by thousands, is clearly a testament of how these instruments grew to become known.

“King of the One Stringed Thing”

In the year 2000, I was invited and booked to headline the first “Big Frog Mountain Bluegrass Festival” near Cleveland, TN. I attended the event, was very well received by those gathered for the affair, gave a children’s workshop on ‘how to play a canjoe’, and on the Saturday night’s main stage closing act, I and Sonny Smith, who was the 1998 National Banjo Champion, had a pickoff as the grand finale, after our separately performed stage shows.

The reason I thought of this event, though it was quite memorable, I had someone who posted a comment on my official CanJoe Company blog site recently offering miscredit to its history. This individual touting himself a specialist on folk instruments has a photo of an early Herschel Brown made “canjoe” on his site, and with a sorta’ piecemealed, very brief “history” of the instruments. By his account, the instrument is based on a zither. Well, not quite … No, it’s always been based on a mountain dulcimer, but ‘whatever’… he’s the “expert”!

Anyway, as Sonny and I are together on stage preparing for the grand finish act, we were to choose a tune as a duet, totally unrehearsed, to prove for the audience who could out pick the other. As Sonny had appointed himself the MC for the act’s introduction, we were both front and center stage in the spot lights and I asked the sound engineer for a pickup cable and direct input box to plug my canjoe through the sound boards, into the main stage speakers. Sonny then being a smart alec commented to the crowd, “hey, sound man, pass me up a cable, too, so I can hook up my electric zither”… the crowd laughed. Like two professional wrestlers mouthing off before a match, the musical barbs flew back and forth as we prepared for the contest.

So, once ready, Sonny with his banjo, me with my canjoe, he asked, “well, Mr fastest, greatest canjoe picker in the world, what tune do you want to choose as you and I try to pull this off”, as he snickers with incredulity. I replied, “how about “Dueling Banjos“, and Sonny with a tone of jocular affability in his voice, “Oh boy! let’s kick her off”. He began with the intro, I followed. As the tune progressed, it got faster. Of course, I’m playing on just one string, Sonny’s picking with three fingers on a five string banjo. The tune grew faster and faster until it was blazing, but we stayed note for note throughout. On the very last note, after a blistering final stanza, we both simultaneously tagged the tune to a finish that brought the huge crowd to a spontaneous, roaring, cheering standing ovation that literally echoed off the Big Frog mountain, throughout the valley, and Sonny then immediately turned to me, stuck out his right hand to shake mine and jubilantly exclaimed, loudly and excitedly, “Mister CanJoe*John, you are TRULY the world’s greatest canjoe picker!!!“… and the “man on the can” was treated by all who witnessed, and from that point onward, as officially declared, crowned and titled, “king of the one-stringed thing”… lol. ~ CJ*J

For ordering details and prices, please call 423-612-4320.

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Another Fine, Custom Designed CanJoe*John Exclusive


Proud owner of a custom, hand crafted, electric instrument by CanJoe*John, of the CanJoe Company.

Some folks know and highly appreciate the quality, authenticity, and the factual history of these fine, hand crafted instruments. The man in this photo, Gene, is ecstatic with his beautiful new, fully electric, custom created CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN. This fine instrument is designed and hand crafted exclusively by CanJoe*John, with assistance of Jack Bradshaw.

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Menagery of CanJoe Company Instruments

This gallery contains 19 photos.

The photos shown are as examples of the craftsmanship standard of each, every, and ALL CanJoe Company instrument(s) offered, and as exclusively designed, created, and handcrafted by CanJoe*John For ALL inquiries, prices, details of information, or to place orders, call … Continue reading

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The Alaska Boys

When three young men who live in Alaska were looking for something interesting to do while visiting Tennessee, their Mom found the CanJoe Company web site on a search for interesting things in NE Tennessee. A few weeks prior to their scheduled trip to the TN region, their mom called and inquired about the authentic, original, cool, handcrafted musical one-stringed things. She was so excited about her three aspiring musician sons having opportunity to tour the original CanJoe Company shop, to pick out their own specific cans, and select woods for their instruments.

After arriving to the CanJoe Company shop located in Blountville, TN on a brisk, Saturday morning, the Alaska boys, first, were introduced to the original, authentic canjoe instruments by the master canjoe picker, himself, followed by a tour of the original canjoe instrument museum and private personal canjoe instrument collection of CanJoe*John, as well.

Check out the photos of their ‘tour’, then as they’re in the shop selecting parts, then one last shot taken before heading back to Alaska to wait… and just two weeks later, the finished works of art (as shown) shipped and received.

For information on ordering, prices, details call 423-612-4320

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Merrill’s Marauders/ Honoring a Hero

Head Stock MM 1

Patch emblem of Merril's Marauders

“Merrill’s Marauders (named after Frank Merrill) or Unit Galahad, officially named the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), was a United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, which fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II, or China-Burma-India Theater (CBI). The unit became famous for its deep-penetration missions behind Japanese lines, often engaging Japanese forces superior in number.” ~ Wikipedia

A ninety year old man from Soddy Daisy, TN recently was introduced to the cool one-stringed musical instrument, the authentic, original CanJoe Company created instrument called, The Canjoe“. He fell in love with it and wanted one for himself. Being that the CanJoe Company creates these instruments as musical works of art, and that each one made is only custom created for the individual owner, personal information was supplied about this ninety year old that could be incorporated in his instrument. Details of his life include that he served as a member of the elite US Army unit of Merrill’s Marauders during WW2 and that he received the Bronze Star award, and the Purple Heart award for his part in that historic event called the “Burma Campaign”, as a soldier fighting in Japan.

This specific man who now owns this custom created Canjoe musical instrument is a true American hero, so it was quickly decided that his instrument should reflect his sacrifices and his gallantry as having served with the Merrill’s Marauders. This specific instrument is symbolic in every way, in by its choices of materials used to fabricate it and in its design, to honor his service.

The body of the instrument is comprised of the finest of mahogany in the world with a most beautiful curly maple finger board laminated on. The mahogany was sourced from what was originally made for use to become a dowel for a casket handle. A company that makes caskets, nearby, supplied the special mahogany dowel. This dowel symbolically represents the hundreds of the members of the Merrill’s Marauders who lost their lives in the line of duty from wounds acquired during the 32 ground battles that they engaged with the Japanese forces, or those who lost their lives from the many diseases contracted from the severe environments that they encountered. The stunningly beautiful piece of curly maple used as the finger board came from the Gibson musical instrument company, as a piece that would be too small for use in their products, but just right for this purpose. Combining the two pieces by methods of laminating them together in the shop after acquiring them began the process of physically creating this exquisite finished work of art.

Researching about the history of the Merrill’s Marauders, a necessary requisite for designing an appropriate memorial, was not only very informative but a real pleasure in discovering the profound sacrifices of those who served this elite unit and of their superhuman accomplishments that helped win the war for the allies against the Japanese in the World War 2. First, before doing internet searches and a lot of reading, my own brother, an avid amateur historian of WW2, was contacted and during the initial phone conversation with him about this project, upon hearing of the fact that this 90 year old man was a member of the Merrill’s Marauders caused him to nearly fall on the floor from astonishment. He was beside himself in hearing that a member of this legendary unit was still alive. His first words upon hearing this was, “do you know who the Merrill’s Marauders were?”, and, with less knowledge than him, of course I said, “not yet”. He then went on to “school” me on their history and after that conversation, I was intrigued and amazed. Here, I’ll post a link for those reading this to use in case of further desire to learn about the most incredible feats of human effort that any armed forces members from anywhere ever pulled off…

Just reading the source from Wikipedia will enlighten the curious:

After the research phase, it was decided to place the Merrill’s Marauders unit patch on the instrument’s head stock. The photo introducing this page is of that symbol artistically rendered. The official Merrill’s Marauders unit patch incorporates a sun in the top left quadrant and a star in the bottom right quadrant. In making this instrument I, the artist and instrument creator, took some artistic license and imbedded a diamond as exchange for the sun, and a gold foil star in the bottom quadrant. The diamond, though representing the sun, also represents the unbreakable, un-scratchable, super hardened, sparkling drive and fortitude of these men. The gold foil star represents, too, that absolutely every one of those who served in this elite unit not only were awarded the Bronze Star but were also as men of men representing the scintillating, shimmering stars of what America represents as being among her finest of heroes.

The designs on the curly maple finger board became from his military awards of the Purple Heart, which is rendered by the purple ribbon design between two frets, and his awarded Bronze Star as represented by the single star between two other frets. In between these emblems is placed the modern day unit patch of the US Army Rangers; the reason, the Merrill’s Marauders as made up of 3,000 volunteers who became trained to become the United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, and whose value and honorable service eventually led to the formation of the modern day US Army’s Rangers, since.

The red, white, and blue that trims the instrument’s finger board should be self explanatory. The new owner loves root beer, so, a vintage 1939 logo design of a collectible “Frostie Root Beer” can was chosen as the resonator.

These men, and especially the 90 year old who now owns this special instrument, should ALL be remembered and honored for their extreme sacrifices and service to this country and the world, for what they endured and for what they did for all free nations in that campaign. Too, it is of the highest honor for me, CanJoe*John, to have been chosen to create this fine instrument, and as a US Navy veteran, myself, the honor is even greater magnified for me, personally, in that my contribution by creating this simple token of art as rendered in this cool, one-stringed musical instrument, and that this man will undoubtedly cherish, is also to honor a fellow veteran of whom I salute as a true American hero.

MM 1

In honor of a true American hero

Military symbols

The "Bronze Star", Ranger's patch, & "Purple Heart ribbon"

Vintage Frostie

1939 Vintage "frostie Root Beer Logo can


Laying in my fiddle case!

For all orders, inquiries, prices, and options, please call the CanJoe Company at 423-612-4320.

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The phone number to reach CanJoe*John has been changed to 423-612-4320. Anyone calling the old number that has been most commonly posted will now reach a message directing them to call the new number. When inquiring about or ordering any instrument, it is required that the contact be made via a phone call. If anyone desires that they receive a call, instead, then send email to with name, phone number, best time to call, and the CanJoe Company will gladly contact accordingly. Every instrument offered by the CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN is always custom made to order. The CanJoe Company does not pre-make instruments to sell. In the twenty + years of doing business, the majority of those who have purchased or received any instrument designed by and hand crafted by CanJoe*John has desired and requested theirs to be crafted with specific cans, wood types, and parts for their instruments. These instruments are always made to reflect the personal desires of whomever will own them. Prices are not posted on the web site, though always very affordable and the quality of every instrument made surpasses way above the prices charged, each instrument created is unique in design and materials used, so the prices can not be pre-determined. Please call the new number for a brief phone call that will determine what the cost of making a custom instrument to your desires will be. Thanks, CJ*J

The CanJoe Company is located 2357 Feathers Chapel Rd, Blountville, TN/ Phone 423-612-4320/ email

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Today is Thanksgiving Day, 2014. It is also my 59th birthday. As the administrator of this site as well as the owner and creator of the CanJoe Company, I have much to celebrate and much to be thankful for. I began the CanJoe Company over twenty years ago, in the year 1994. Previous blog posts on this site tell the story of how I got started, and why. Without repeating all the details, as one can find those details in the previous posts, I was a close and personal friend of Herschel R. Brown who originally designed and created the very first in the world one-stringed musical instruments that he called the “Can Joe”. Herschel gave to me, and I still own, one of his very first ever made instruments. Soon after, he and I began working together to market and distribute them. Herschel always used only pine wood that he recovered from his construction jobs to make his simple, but well made instruments. He did not stain, edge, or add any finish to the raw pine wood that he used to make his. He mass produced the simple pine wood finger boards that he sold to a wood working supply catalog as kits. I quickly found a different niche of buyers who wanted something better, something more personal, and who chose to invest in a higher level of products than the simple, less than finished version that Herschel offered. Folks that I met would ask if I could make theirs with specific cans, special woods, or with much greater detail than the simple pine wood versions. I grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee and my grandmother managed the Blue Ridge Parkway Craft Center in Blowing Rock, NC for 27 years, beginning in the year that I was born. She was an expert on the high end hand crafted items created by the finest craftsmen of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. I grew up learning from the works of these fine craftsmen that detail and quality matter, a lot! When I began making my versions of “canjoe” instruments, with and by Herschel’s full support and assistance in getting started, my goal was to create them at the highest level of craftsmanship and accuracy as possible. I also had two other goals that came from life’s circumstances that I was experiencing at the very beginning of my starting the CanJoe Company. That beginning was at the time when my wife, Sissy, was dying from cancer and before she departed this world I promised her that I’d someday reach two other specific goals with the instruments, besides creating them into fine art. One of those goals was that I’d someday play the Grand Ole Opry on a canjoe, and on November 4, 2006, I made that goal realized. I debuted the Opry on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium to a sold out crowd and earned three rousing ovations during, and a standing ovation at the end of that performance. So, that goal was finally met. I also had promised to Sissy that I’d put smiles on faces that deserved to smile, and after my debut on the Opry, I began an exclusive tour of children’s hospitals, called the Tour of Smiles, where for seven consecutive years, I toured, entertained, and gave thousands of my beautifully hand finished instruments to very sick kids with chronic illnesses, like cancer, as for what I called “smile therapy”. Thus, I’ve achieved that other very worthy goal, as well.

In the past twenty + years, my instruments have evolved to become truly works of the highest level of craftsmanship art possible. I do not make junk, or sell gimmicks. In all the years that I’ve made them, there has never, ever, been even one single complaint of the quality of my crafted instruments, or of the prices anyone has ever been charged or has paid for purchasing them. My finished workmanship speaks for itself. I have no need to prove to anybody outside of my customer base that what I make is worthy. Those who purchase or own any of my instruments know without doubt, and 100% agree. With over twenty years of experience, with making thousands upon thousands of my instruments, and having tried every conceivable size, shape, and type of can, or every possible concept of design; two stringed, three stringed, electric, every size, upright bass, or miniature versions; I am far, far past the experimentation stage and every instrument that I create becomes an absolutely accurate, extremely solidly built, highly durable, highest quality, real musical instrument. I use only genuine musical stringed instrument parts; quality tuner keys (not eyebolts); real frets (not staples); steel instrument strings (not nylon fishing string). My instruments are always fully warranted for life, signed, dated, and custom made to the desires of the owner. So, I have fully achieved that first goal, too. Some of my instruments are on display in museums, many are kept in glass cases by private collectors, and some have actually been buried in the caskets of a few children who loved theirs so well that their parents put them in with their precious babies who’ve passed on from their diseases, and no greater honor could be bestowed my work than that, period.

It’s obvious that I have much to be thankful for. As I, too, am quickly reaching the age of being a senior citizen, I also realize that my time on this earth is becoming shorter with each year, each day, but hopefully many more that will allow me to continue offering my craft, my art, for those who appreciate owning these cool, fun to play, genuine instruments. I will continue to make my instruments at the highest level of craftsmanship possible. I will not ever compromise, lower my standards of workmanship or quality of product in order to “compete” with those who have more recently jumped in to take advantage of a growing market that I have spent twenty years creating, with their conceived versions of cheaply made inferior products, either. What I personally hand make and others now attempt are not as “apples to apples” by anyone else offering, and more than often, are not even close … no brag, just fact. I make no apologies for any statement made here, either. I create my instruments for those who require and desire to own the absolute very best, the highest of quality possible of ‘canjoe’ instrument made, and who choose to deal with a 20 year well established business that has a sterling world wide recognized and respected reputation. The CanJoe Company of Blountville, TN is the only maker and provider in existence of the truly genuine, original, master crafted one-stringed musical thing, trade branded as the ‘Canjoe’. For all inquiries, orders, or options, please call 423-323-0174, or cell 423-612-4320. Orders for Christmas should be made as soon as possible in order to assure delivery on time. ~ John L. VanArsdall (aka CanJoe*John), Proprietor

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Fanty 3

In honor of 40 years servive!

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:

Fanty Can 2

Made custom for Command Sergeant Major Kenneth W. Fanty, US Army (ret)

For all inquiries, prices or orders, please call 423-323-0174, or 423-612-4320.

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