The CanJoe Man

“CanJoe” John VanArsdall, a longtime fiddler, has been making canjoes, a one-string instrument with a can (yes, like a soda or beer car) for more than 20 years. VanArsdall began making the unique instrument as a hobby in the early 1990s with his friend, Herschel Brown, who believes himself to be the inventor of the device.

VanArsdall played the canjoe for his wife, who was sick with an incurable cancer. She gave him the nickname CanJoe John.  “Every time I played that instrument for Sissy it never failed, she smiled; even when it was the worst conditions a human body could go through,” VanArsdall said. “Before she left this world I told her two things. I said I may never make it to the Grand Ole Opry on the fiddle but I’m going to do it with the canjoe and I’m going to put smiles on the faces of those that deserve to smile.”

After her death, VanArsdall did make it to the Grand Ole Opry stage and he created the Tour of Smiles, which brings music and instruments to children’s hospitals.

This documentary explores the history of the instrument and VanArsdall’s journey to the Grand Ole Opry. Doors for this general admission event will open at 6:30. Aaron Winneroski, assistant director, animator, and editor of the documentary, was the winner of the 2016 Red Carpet Affair Short Film Competition. 

The CanJoe Man