BillyRadd Music

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Enter the Canjo

A couple of weeks ago, my wife Anita and I traveled about an hour from Asheville to the 22nd annual Summertime Arts and Crafts Show presented by Mountain Artisans at the Ramsey Center on the beautiful Western Carolina University campus at Cullowhee, North Carolina, which I mention in my previous post.  When we first arrived at the show, we were greeted by what sounded like banjo picking music.  Upon investigation, we found the mountain music was emanating from a booth hosted by Alice and Henry Hoover, a very nice couple from Allardt, Tennessee.

Alice was alone "manning" the booth and it was her that was playing the simple tune on what appeared to be a stick with an empty Spam can attached and one banjo string running the length.  

But, as we found out, this is no ordinary stick.  

I was intrigued by the design simplicity of this rudimentary instrument and the quality of the rather loud banjo sound it produced. During our short initial conversation with Alice, she related that her husband, Henry, had worked on the Polaris ballistic missile program, was quite smart, AND a very good father.

We decided to wander the rest of the craft show for a while and told Alice that we would return on our way out.

When we returned a few hours later packing some nice goodies from the craft show, we found that Henry Hoover had joined Alice in their Canjo booth.  And, of course, Henry was also playing away on another Spam-can-sporting stick.  

I asked Henry for some details about his invention, which he proudly and happily related. 

I believe he told me that he only uses one of four different hardwoods to make each canjo and explained the reason and specific resonant qualities of each. This man is actually some kind of Spam-ish luthier, I realized. After a few fascinating minutes, I asked Henry which one of the many canjo models displayed he thought was the best for me and he choose a beautiful oak canjo that, as you can see from the picture above, has a nice reddish color.

As I mentioned, this is no ordinary stick with a banjo string attached.  It is a perfectly fretted musical instrument made with pride by no less than a rocket scientist.  As far as I could tell, each canjo is a hand-crafted original based on a very functional but economical design, and finished with linseed oil.  The single banjo string, attached to a tuning machine up at the head end of the neck, is tuned to the key of D, but Henry told me that you can tune it to any key you want.  Versatile, too, eh?

I've already used my Canjo for a simple track in the new theme song for Anita's Diabetes Menus DVD Number Two that Anita and I are currently producing.  I am so happy to have met Alice and Henry Hoover and to be one of the newest proud owners of a Hoover Canjo.

Henry and Alice Hoover a-pickin' and a-grinnin'
To get your very own Hoover Canjo, contact Alice and Henry at

or 913-879-9955 or 931-397-9596

Or Henry Hoover
     P.O. Box 94
     Allardt, TN  38504

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