In the busking tradition of playing on the streets, the one man band is a subgenre all its own and there are many different versions of the differing instrumentation. I remember a one man band from my teenage years in Charleston, South Carolina who used to set up in the empty Market stalls at night, he had mostly just a couple foot-pedaled drums and cymbals along with his guitar and harmonica. Jim Hadley was a fairly well-known street performer up the road in Columbia for many years, playing banjo or guitar while tap dancing on a hollow wooden platform that amplified his steps. The best-engineered one man band I’ve ever seen was Eric Royer, who played the alt-country event Spittlefest in Raleigh, North Carolina several years in a row. Royer had an elaborate setup of pulleys and picks that he controlled with his feet to play up to three stringed instruments simultaneously, and I still have a CD he put out of traditional folk, country and old-time music–but the effect is lost without the visual to go with the songs.
Want to try your hand at being a one man band, but don’t have the talent or time? Check out this addictive Flash game that lets you put together and “play” a range of instruments as a one man band: One Man Band at Miniclip.com
Just want to see some good one man bands in action? check out these clips:
First, Eric Royer:
It seems to be common in Europe, here’s one from Croatia:
And another, from Italy:
And although it’s not embeddable, here’s a link to the Pixar “One Man Band” short.