|This is how they do it in the Hills Of Kentucky, this is the real thing!
A homemade guitar and a sound that cannot be made on any store bought item.
Early Peanuts Sept 27th 1951
In the South it's common to hear stories that B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and
many of those other old-time blues guys started out playing guitar on a cigar box guitar. Not
many people who follow Blues and Country music know this, but many famous Bluesmen and
Country singers started their career on a simple homemade cigar box guitar.
One reason most Blues and Country music has such a distinctive sound is because it was
derived off of music made on these simple instruments.
The precursor to the cigar box guitar as an instrument was an instrument called the diddly-bow.
It was a one stringed instrument where the player would take a glass bottle neck and run it up
and down a string while plucking the opposite end of the string to achieve the tone that they
where after. These basic "guitars" didn't have frets and this crude form of guitar playing is what
melded into the form of slide guitar we are familiar with today. That is what is thought to be the
creation of slide guitar in the "Southern Delta."
From Son House to Muddy Waters, they were all influenced in some way by these early
homemade instruments following along in their career as slide guitar players. That's where the
Blues and slide guitar truly started at. On those plantations and cotton fields, homemade
guitars and 'field hollerin' went hand in hand.
Many of the biggest names in early Blues history played a cigar box guitar. They didn't play
Gibsons or Martins, they couldn't afford them!
It's well known Lightnin' Hopkins got his start on the cigar box guitar. If you would like to hear
Lightnin' himself talk about his homemade guitar, watch this short video...what's better than
the man himself telling you some of the history of this wonderful type of guitar!
This tradition of making and playing a homemade guitar continued from the 1880's for many
decades up until the 1950's.....but it never stopped there, many small magazine articles from the
60's, 70's and 80's keep this art form alive. Even though this form of guitar has faded into
obscurity, some Blues and Rock musicians still enjoy playing them today.
Here is a wonderful example of one being played still today, it really does take you back in time,
Watch this video of Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top
|This sound recording of Ry Cooders' song "Billy The Kid" is performed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top and is an excerpt
from a Mark Maron interview. I have presented it here for educational and commentary purposes only in relation to
the brief discussion about of the history of the cigar box guitar as a long forgotten instrument in American history.
All Copyrights for this material are the property of their respective owners.
This story about what would make a poor person use a cigar box for a guitar in the first place
began in the mid 1800's. The Cigar boxes that we are familiar with today didn't exist prior to
the 1840's. Prior to then, cigars were shipped in larger crates containing 100 or more per case.
But after 1842, due to exploration of the West, cigar manufacturers started using smaller,
more portable boxes with only 20-50 cigars per box.
In the Old West and through out the 1800's cigars were extremely popular. Card games,
Saloons and of coarse those great Mississippi Paddle boats helped spread tobacco throughout
early America. Because of the widespread popularity of smoking in those days, many empty
boxes would be just laying around. Unlike times are today, the 1800's were a simpler time for
Americans, when necessity was truly the mother of invention. Being that most American
music was based off of stringed instruments, using a cigar box to create a guitar, fiddle, or a
banjo was an obvious choice for a few crafty souls. The earliest proof of a instrument made
from a cigar box that has been found is an etching of a Civil War solider at the "Siege of
Charleston." Even during the War, there was a passion for music in America and it was
After The Civil War, America was in ruins. Little money was had to buy instruments. One
thing for sure about American resilience is that ingenuity was abound. After the War both
Union and Confederate Soldiers along with now freed Slaves carried this creative homemade
guitar back with them to almost every corner of America. People used left over wood, cigar
boxes, biscuit tin cans, string, broom handles, baling and screen wire and whatever else was
lying around the house, shed or barn to create these crude homemade instruments. Making a
"home-made" guitar was the only choice for the impoverished. Those humble beginnings of
the cigar box guitar are what eventually gave this little known guitar a home in music history.
Here is the Super 8. I put on some tail lights, chrome and cut the neck to have some
bumpers to try to make it into this old car that came up at auction in York PA.
This guitar can go from Telecaster Disaster to an all out Jazzy feel to even lots of
distortion. It can easily levitate any Marshal stack, plug this into a Fender twin and
you'll get the sweetest blues you'll ever hear!!! It's the SUPER 8!
email me email@example.com
Here's is a dash of vintage Bottleneck Blues cigar box guitar
Here is an old cigar box instrument from the early
1900's I found on ebay.
These things turn up all the time. The more history
is uncovered and attics and barns are searched the
more of these people find, some people throw them
away, but some of them are saved from the landfills.
This is a work of art!
I can build you one anytime!
|EMAIL ME at firstname.lastname@example.org
|I can make it in several styles, less gold or more gold?
You're the Pirate, you decide!
EMAIL ME at email@example.com
This is a guitar I build alot in both right
and Left hand. It is lots of fun to play.
This is another theme I like to do often. It has soundholes in an X pattern and I hand
make the sound hole bezels by pressing brass and then Powder coating them.
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I can build you one amytime.
|I can make you anything in any style, in any color,
...so many choices...what to do?????
email me at email@example.com
|Russian soldiers in World War One -1917 with homemade guitars
|Fresh off the work bench is this 3 string guitar for sale,
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I also have 4 stringers too!
Lost at Sea??? I can help with that too!
Look in the lower right corner!!!! photo c.1919
|Cigar Box Amps and more!
There were lots of How to build your own Cigar Box
Amplifiers in magazines in the 50's and 60's
These photos are Calender photos from the early 50's. The artist has used this boy in about 6 or
7 similar arrangements with a cigar box violin. Must have been something he had seen!