EILEEN WEST GALLERY
CONTEMPORARY AND OUTSIDER ART
ALABAMA "CANJO" MAN
This page is an archive. I haven't seen Johnny and Bett Jean for some time now. There's a small video attached to this page. Beautiful.
Here's the story I wrote the winter we did a show with him.
Johnny Harrelson says his wife Betty Jean has all the class. They've been married over 50 years. She is his straight man.
In addition to playing the hammer dulcimer John made for her, the piano, the organ, and the ancient biblical psaltery he hand crafted, she is an accomplished quilter. Her work is finely sewn and her patterns have special significance. (The work will be in the gallery and we hope to have it online soon.)
Harrelson describes himself as "trashy laffin'". When his health made him retire from the mill in south Alabama where he had worked all his life, he began woodworking during his recovery. What started out as creative curiosity evolved into traveling to craft shows with his handmade stringed instruments and Betty's quilts. (Her quietly wry humor is the perfect counterpoint to his showmanship.)
Harrelson says he's played music as long as he can remember. Making the instruments brought together his newfound love of woodworking and his lifelong love of music. And although the finely crafted instruments are beautiful, it is the 2 x 2 with a tin can attached that has dubbed him "Canjo Man"
Canjos are functional stringed instruments made with a can for the body.
Thay come with a hand carved pick and a sheet of instructions showing how to pick several well known tunes. Simple and straighforward, everyone is a picker in no time at all. Real musicians get the biggest kick out of them.
850.502.1847 / 850.225.3024