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: