One Hand Dan (Dan Russell)

Musical styles: Delta, Deep South, Swamp Blues
Handmade instruments played: Banjukimer, cigar box guitar, license plate guitar, ukulele, Lowebow…

Texas-born, Alabama-raised Dan Russell was presented a particular challenge at an early age. This one challenge, that ultimately helped to give him his stage name, is also what helps to set his music apart from the rest of the blues performers that can be seen busking southern city sidewalks. One Hand Dan has used the namesake of his challenge to enthusiastically roll through life, performing with grit and gusto.

Despite his mono manual operations, as a youth Dan learned how to succeed in sports like football and studied several martial arts. Taking his flair for the competitive a bit further, Dan worked as a professional wrestler for thirteen years, incorporating some ukulele and banjo performances into his act. Being bitten by the bug to perform in a different capacity, Dan found his love for playing music stoked by trying his hand at bottleneck slide guitar.

Dan began busking the streets of Florence, Alabama and across the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals. He brought his love for the Delta Blues to the sidewalks and his unique personality to his music. Knowing how to play multiple stringed instruments and incorporating them into his performances proved to be problematic in the event that a speedy exit sometimes needed to be made from his spot on the sidewalk. Dan solved some of his gear issues by getting himself a three-necked cigar box guitar. In doing so he carved out a spot for himself in not only the blues but also the handmade musical instrument community. This iconic instrument which came to be known as a Banjukimer (built by John Nickel and Jason Maaz of Nickel Cigar Box Guitars).

His collection of instruments has grown to include ukuleles handmade with various tins, license plate and cigar box guitars all played with Dan’s unique style and aplomb. He continues his street performances, playing in various venues across the country, and has released an album on C. B. Gitty Records.

Visit Dan’s website:

One String Willie (David Williams)

Musical style: Blues
Handmade instrument played: Diddley bow

The diddley bow, some would have you believe, is an entry level instrument; one that a bluesman may start out on but would later grow out of in favor of a full size guitar. One String Willie turned that notion on its head. He has pursued his passion project of exploring the limits of the primitive one string instrument and rekindled a style of play relegated to history.

David began playing guitar in 1964 and picked up bottleneck slide guitar in ‘76. His early musical interests included ragtime, blues, rock, and jug bands. In high school while playing in a jug band, David built a washtub bass. With this a seed had been planted.

In 2004 the seed sprouted when David, a Pennsylvania native, read an article about a fellow Pennsylvanian, Shane Speal, who was curating a cigar box guitar museum. From the article David found the impetus to make his own cigar box guitar.

A year later David met Shane who recommended that David check out Eddie “One String” Jones. David was deeply moved by the raw, powerful music that Eddie Jones made on his diddley bow. The sprout of passion for DIY music, and diddley bows in particular, had blossomed.

From Eddie “One String” Jones CD liner notes, which included a drawing and photographs of Eddie’s diddley bow, David made his own. With some broom wire, wood, a jar, and a can, a diddley bow was built and One String Willie was born.

One String Willie first performed at the Huntsville, AL, 3rd Annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival in 2007 and has been performing ever since. A unique twist to One String Willie’s performances is that he will walk the audience through the history and construction of a diddley bow, from start to finish. Then he’ll break into his percussive, soulful performance.

One String Willie continues to test the boundaries of what a diddley bow can do using these questions (quoted from his website):
What kinds of sounds can be made on one string, and what techniques can be used to make them?
How can those sounds be integrated into a piece of music?
How can the apparent limitations of the instrument be overcome with ingenuity and novel technique?

One String Willie’s website:

Purgatory Hill (Pat MacDonald)

Musical style: Goth blues, stomp-rock
Handmade instruments played: cigar box guitar, Lowebow

Pat MacDonald originally took the name Purgatory Hill as a solo artist, before using it for the hypnotic, hard-edged duo he formed with singer/songwriter melaniejane.

A long time performing artist, who as one half of the band Timbuk3 was nominated in 1987 for a Grammy as Best New Artist, Pat has deep roots in the recording industry. He is an acclaimed songwriter who has collaborated on songs with artists like Cher, Keith Urban, and Peter Frampton. Pat also has credits on songs performed by artists Aerosmith, Night Ranger, and Billy Ray Cyrus to name a few.

One night after Pat’s performance, a fan handed a cigar box guitar to him and told Pat to keep it. The cigar box guitar was a Lowebow, the brainchild of artists John Lowe and Richard Johnston. That guitar helped to shape the direction Pat moved in the music he created.

The Lowebow, which in its early inceptions was given the name Purgatory Hill Harp, has one bass string and three guitar strings which enable Pat to get the deep, growling sound he is fond of. His knack for playing dark, thumping grooves made possible by this CBG, were fitting music for his poetry.

Much like the deep drones of Mississippi Hill country music that seem to influence Pat’s style, the cigar box guitar gave Pat a medium through which to express his dark art. From the name of his newfound instrument, and with John Lowe’s blessing, Pat took the name Purgatory Hill.

Pat then teamed up with melaniejane who plays electric cello, accordion, percussion, and sings to complement Pat’s own talents. Along with melaniejane the Wisconsin musical duo tours and records, receiving national press coverage for their craft.

Check out pat and melaniejane at

Richard Johnston

Musical style: Hill country blues
Handmade instruments played: Cigar box guitar, Lowebow

As a ten year old boy Richard Johnston was given his first six string guitar. The gift, being strung with only four strings, presented Richard with his first taste of playing droning notes, something that later in life re-emerged in his style of hill country blues.

Richard was introduced to the open G tuning and playing style of Robert Johnson while in university in southern California. He was smitten and incorporated what he heard into his own guitar playing. Richard continued his education in Japan for a spell, playing his Robert Johnson influenced blues guitar at a local watering hole.

His passion for playing slide guitar stuck with him and he stayed in Japan, eventually finding a regular paying gig. That gig got him noticed by a writer from Memphis, TN who encouraged Richard to come back to the States to play his first blues festival in Memphis.

There Richard found and fell in love with Beale Street. With that Richard moved to the Music City where he found a living busking. Busking in Memphis put Richard in close proximity to the north Mississippi hill country blues with its driving drones that would ultimately shape his playing style.

Memphis also put him close to John Lowe. John was making unique handmade instruments and selling them in his Memphis store. After playing a couple of his instruments, Richard asked John make a custom cigar box guitar. This eventually turned into a creative collaboration that produced the storied Lowebow.

By this time, Richard had become accustomed to playing percussion with his feet while busking. He took the double stick-necked cigar box guitar that Lowe had made and won first place in the 2001 International Blues Challenge along with the Albert King Guitar Award.

Richard has gone on to play his foot-stomping brand of hill country blues in 13 different countries at some of the biggest music festivals in the world. Along with establishing himself as a soulful singing one man band Richard has also been the impetus for an instrument that helped to change the way music on the cigar box guitar is played.

You can find Richard at

Samantha Fish


Musical styles: Blues, Rock, Roots, Americana, Hill Blues, Originals

Handmade Musical Instrument Played: Cigar Box Guitar

Hailing from Kansas City, Samantha Fish is a blues guitarist and singer that has broken the mold of cigar box guitar performers. While she has spent years honing her craft on six string electrics in various venues across both Europe and North America, Samantha has done something that few others have; she has put her cigar box guitar and the skills to play it on stage for massive audiences.

In her small, carefully curated arsenal of blues axes, Fish has a CBG built by Stogie Box Blues she bought while in Helena, Arkansas, playing at the 2012 King Biscuit Blues Festival. That year turned out to be a big one for Samantha as she won Best New Artist at the Blues Music awards in Memphis, TN.

Samantha started playing guitar at the age of 15 and haunted a local club for the next three years watching all the touring bands that rolled through town. At the age of 18 she began to take that same stage performing with various artists.

The next few years Samantha continued to perform and record which eventually led to her award in 2012.

The next year Samantha was given the opportunity to play with Buddy Guy who was initially a bit skeptical of Samantha taking the stage. However Buddy was so impressed by her playing that he was heard to have said, “When this kind of s@#! happens, I’ll play all night!”

Continuing to play and to grow as a musician has led Samantha to expand on her blues-rock style incorporating more roots rock and the fabled hill blues. She has released her third album as of 2015 and is still tearing up venues with her skillful performances and commanding vocals.

You can find Samantha Fish on her website:

Seasick Steve (Steven Wold)

Musical Styles: Blues, Rock, Boogie, Americana, Roots, Originals

Handmade Instruments Played: Hubcap, Washboard, Cigar Box Guitars, Diddley-bow

Seasick Steve is a blues guitarist and singer who lived the long, hard life of a performing artist many years before gaining notoriety. At one point, his entire living was made busking. It took over forty years of performing before he ultimately got his break.

Steve is a native of California whose rocky childhood led him to find his own way early in life. At eight years old he was introduced to playing blues guitar. At 13, he began hopping freight trains to find work elsewhere in the States. Steve worked as a farm laborer, a cowboy, and as a carnival worker, often living as a hobo.

In Steve’s words, “Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don’t look for work, and bums are people who don’t move and don’t work. I’ve been all three.”

Steve began touring and performing with fellow blues musicians in the 1960’s and over time found work as a session musician and recording engineer. In the ‘90’s he continued working as an engineer and producer leaving his fingerprints all over several indie-label artists.

It wasn’t until 2001 when, after having moved to Norway, that Steve released his first album, and 2006 until he released his first solo album. Shortly after that solo release Steve broke out on the British stage. He quickly became a favorite son of the United Kingdom, winning awards and playing more festivals than any other artist at the time.

Steve has since toured the world, playing countless venues. He’s been featured on numerous television programs and continues to perform and release new, original music.

Seasick Steve’s website:

Shane Speal

Musical styles: Blues, Rock, Punk, Americana, Roots, Originals
Handmade instruments played: Cigar box guitar, Chugger, Mailbox Dobro

There would very likely be no modern cigar box guitar revival without the work of Shane Speal. In 1993 Shane saw an article on Carl Perkins in an old issue of a guitar magazine. He was excited by the primal nature of Perkin’s instrument, made from a cigar box and a broom stick. Shane set out to build an instrument using a cigar box of his own with a wooden plank from the family barn. This was the beating wings of a butterfly that would lead to a tsunami.

For the next six years Shane built and sold his cigar box guitars locally while performing his own brand of raucous blues-rock on his handmade instruments. In 1998 he started the first known internet site for cigar box guitars. In 2003 Shane started an online community for cigar box guitar builders that ballooned to 3000 members by 2008. Later that same year he started what is now the largest community of cigar box guitar builder and players,

To add to his already impressive list of credits, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar, as Shane is widely known, has also:

  • Founded a cigar box guitar museum in his home state of Pennsylvania
  • Has been featured in a documentary about the CBG revolution called Songs Inside the Box
  • Helped to establish C.B. Gitty Records; a label that features artists who build and play handmade instruments
  • Has been featured in many cigar box guitar festivals across the United States
  • Created the documentary, Chasing Steam, about musical history in York, PA
  • Has played on stage with Mike Watt of Minutemen and Firehose, Horace Panter of The Specials, and Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America
  • Is a regular contributor to Guitar World magazine, with articles focused on DIY instruments and the people who build and play them

Shane continues to encourage and inspire cigar box guitar builders the world over with his unending appetite for people to build, and most importantly play, their cigar box guitars.

You can find Shane at:

Stacy Mitchhart

Musical styles: Blues, Jazz, Latin, Rock, R&B

Handmade instrument played: cigar box guitar

Consummate showman and captivating performer Stacy Mitchhart has been rocking Nashville for over twenty years. He’s played from coast to coast with several bands and been leading them since a young age.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Stacy was raised on a diet of soul and jazz. As a child while looking through the paper for movie listings one rainy day, he ran across an ad to learn how to play guitar. Without ado he was soon going to lessons and taking well to the instrument; so well, that by the age of nine he taught his father how to play guitar.

Over the years as a young adult Stacy worked his way up through the Cincinnati blues scene, leading bands and creating a name for himself. By ‘93 he had started his own music label and released his first CD. His career thus far includes 14 CD’s.

In ‘96 he took his talent to Nashville and hasn’t looked back since. Stacy has won the Albert King Award and been inducted into the Canadian Blues Hall of Fame. While in Nashville he has led the house band/headliner at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar for more than 18 years.

Through his work solidifying himself as a must-see blues showman, Stacy has included the use of cigar box guitar in his performances. “The secret is to find the voice of each particular instrument and translate it through your playing,” said Stacy in an interview with

Even though he has long been sponsored by a major guitar manufacturer, Stacy still understands and appreciates the value and beauty of cigar box guitars. “Homemade instruments are tied directly to the Blues by the nature of their existence. If you don’t have the means to purchase an instrument, you try to make a version of it to play.”

Stacy Mitchhart’s website: