One Man Bands

The hero of this wing of archives is doubtless Joe Barrick: inventor, guitar maker, hillbilly musician, and a one-man band specialist. But there’s much more to discover here. I’m always looking for more photos to add to the museum, so if you have any, let me know!

Joe Barrick

Joe Barrick is my kind of a guy: inventor, guitar maker, hillbilly musician, and a one-man band specialist! He was born in 1922 in Oklahoma and grew up playing fiddle and mandolin in western swing and hillbilly bands, idolizing Bob Wills.

After a stint in the Armed Services during WWII, Joe settled in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, working as a carpenter and beginning to dabble in making musical instruments. In the early 1950s he started making a series of electrified instruments–guitars, mandolins, and doublenecks–that incorporated bull skulls, complete with horns, as the central body. Joe built about a dozen of these “cow skull” guitars before moving on to other important ventures, including his one-man band.

Joe tired of the hassles with fellow musicians and decided to forge his own road ahead. He invented a device called the “piatarbajo,” a combination piano, guitar, bass, and banjo, which he played with his feet while playing the guitar, mandolin, or fiddle with his hands and singing or playing harmonica with his mouth.

On our last tour through Oklahoma we got to meet the 85-year-old Joe Barrick, still going strong. His entire house compound was a one-man folk art complex, from the thousands of beer cans that decorated the fence surrounding his property to the whirligig in the back yard incorporating (what else) a cow skull and a giant metal guitar. It was a treat to meet this interesting man with such a colorful history!

For a more complete story on Joe Barrick and one-man bands, visit

Here’s a well-deserved salute to a true original!