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:

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